There is a new article by Jennifer Shack in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, suggesting that the manuscript evidence cannot support the idea that this controversial passage is an interpolation. She concludes:
So where does all this leave 1 Cor. 14.34-35? It leaves it in the text. If it cannot be viewed as an interpolation, what does that mean? It means that we continue to wrestle with the evidence and we continue to do the best we can to accurately understand the text of 1 Corinthians with Paul’s words in 14.34-35 intact.
A few years ago I posted my ponderings about the textual integrity of this passage here – but I haven’t been 100% satisfied with any of the ‘wrestlings’ I’ve seen with the passage. If it is indeed original to the letter, then a face-value reading is so obviously at odds with chapter 11, that it is necessary to press further and attempt other readings. I’m pretty sure I’ve posted my own tentative wrestling with the content of the passage before at some point, but here it is, for what it’s worth – by no means a settled conclusion, but an imaginative attempt…
Could it be that the command to silence is directed to the wives of (male) prophets whose messages are being evaluated?
The broader passage would thus read as follows (from 14:29):
29: The command to allow evaluation of speaking prophets
- 30-33: The silenced speech of critiqued prophets: control yourself!
- 34-35: The silenced speech of wives of critiqued prophets: control yourself!
- 36-37: The subjection of prophetic utterance to apostolic command
To expand (and over-translate, for the sake of elucidating my suggestion; repeated terminology is italicised)…
Let two or three prophets speak, and others should evaluate what is said.
If an evaluative revelation comes to one of these “others” who is seated…
- the prophet should be silent – for you prophets are all able to prophesy one by one, so that all of the congregation might learn and receive encouragement. And the spirits of prophets are in subjection to prophets – for God is not a God of disorder but of peace – as in all the churches of the saints
- The wives of such critiqued speakers also must be silent in the churches – for it is not permitted to them to speak (i.e. on behalf of their silenced husbands) – but let their spirits be in subjection just as the law also says. But if they want to learn something, let them ask their husbands at home – for it is embarrassing for the wife to speak up in church
- You indignant prophet, did the word of God come from your mouth? Or has it only reached you? If anyone thinks themselves to be a prophet or spiritual, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.