The Scriptures clearly state the place and function of sisters in the Body of Christ. One point that is strongly emphasized regarding the behavior of sisters is silence.

When, where and to what extent is this "silence" applied? Most agree that sisters should be silent during the Memorial Service. But what about Bible classes and other gatherings?

The commands:

1 Corinthians 14:33-35:

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all ecclesias of the saints. 34 Let your women keep silence in the ecclesias: for is it not permitted unto them to speak: but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35 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 ecclesia.

1 Timothy 2:11-12:

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul emphasizes "the commandments of the Lord" concerning the ecclesia that "all things be done decently and in order."

The Greek word for "decently" (euschemon) means "well-formed, noble in rank, decorous, comely, honorable" and the Greek word for "order" (taxis) means "regular arrangement, fixed succession of rank or character, official dignity."

For God is not the author of confusion (disorder).

34 "Let your women" - Paul is addressing the brethren as it is the responsibility of the brethren to see that the ecclesia is established and ordered in accordance with their head, Christ.

"Keep Silence" - Greek = Sigao - Keep close secret, hold peace; from a Greek word meaning, a voluntary refusal or indisposition to speak.

This same Greek word is used in instructing the brethren to "keep silence" in v. 28 and to "hold his peace" in v. 30. It is not an instruction to women only, but in certain instances the brethren are to respect the beauty of the order in the ecclesia and voluntarily refuse to speak.

"Not Permitted" - Greek=Epitrepo - (emphatically, in the highest form) not allowed, not turned over or transferred, not given liberty, license, or leave, not suffered.

"Speak" - Greek=Laleo, to talk, to utter words.

The voice of a women is not allowed in the ecclesia. It is not a part of woman's "liberty" to "utter words" in the ecclesia, it cannot even be "suffered." "Uttering words" in the ecclesia has not been "turned over" to women. This would include asking questions as Paul's words are inescapably clear - "If they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands (Greek=men) at home." Thus, in the ecclesia, sisters are to learn in silence.

"Under Obedience" - From (1) Greek=Hupo - to subordinate, to obey, put under, subdue unto, be/make subject to/unto, be put in subjection to, under or beneath in place, inferior position or condition, and (2) Greek=Tasso - to arrange in an orderly manner, assign or dispose to a certain position or lot.

"Shame" - Greek=alscitron - an indecorum, from a Greek word meaning deformed.

If a woman's voice speaks in the ecclesia, it is a deformity to the beautiful order set out by God.

In 1 Timothy 2:11-12 the use of another Greek word for silence teaches us that not only should a sister's voice or language be silent, but she must also sit still and not bustle about in ecclesial meetings.

"Silence" in verses 11 and 12- Greek=Hesuchia (a feminine word) - stillness, desistance from bustle or language, quietness, silence.

Quietness in voice and demeanor is required of sisters in ecclesial meetings.

"Subjection" - Greek=Hupotage - subordination, subjection from Hupotasso, the same word translated "under obedience" in 1 Corinthians 14:34.

"Suffer not" - Greek=Epitrepo (emphatically, in the highest form) not allowed, not turned over or transferred, not given liberty, license, or leave, not suffered. This is the same word translated "not permitted" in 1 Corinthians 14:34.

"To Teach" - Greek=Didaske - to teach - this is the common word for teach.

Sisters are certainly not to teach in the open meetings of the ecclesia, but in certain circumstances they are permitted to teach (1) the unbaptized (children or adults) and (2) other sisters. Both Aquila and his wife, Priscilla, took Apollos and "expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly" (Acts. 18:26). And the older sisters are commanded to instruct the younger sisters in their proper behavior (Titus 2:4-5).

 The Scriptural prohibition placed on sisters by no means diminishes a sister's responsibility to study to show herself approved unto God and that she should be ready at all times to give an answer from the Word of God for the Hope that is in her. A sister can even be wiser, more capable, and better versed in the Scriptures than a brother. But this is not the point. These verses direct the sister's sphere of influence to its rightful place - the home and family - where great good may be accomplished in bringing up children, showing hospitality, and working quietly to comfort and relieve the sick and sorrowful, and many other good works. Sisters have just as much responsibility and obligation as brethren to "always abound in the work of the Lord," and to give their whole lives in total, loving service.

"Usurp Authority" - Greek=Authenteo - to grasp, to seize wrongfully, to act of oneself.

This is exactly what happened to Eve in the Garden. She acted of herself which resulted in sin and grief. Eve should have looked to Adam (for whom she was made) for spiritual judgment, rather than acting on her own. Bro. Thomas speaks of these verses as Paul's appeal to "the unhappy consequences of Eve's talkativeness and leadership in transgression." (Elpis Israel, p. 122) Bro. Thomas goes on to say on p. 123:

"A man should never permit the words of a woman to intervene between him and the laws of God. This is a rock upon which myriads have made shipwreck of the faith. Adam sinned in consequence of listening to Eve's silvery discourse. No temptation has proved more irresistible to the flesh than the enticing words of woman's lips. 'They drop as a honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: but her end is bitter as wormwood, and sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; and her steps take hold on hell' (Prov. 5:3-5). Adam was a striking illustration of this truth . . ."

There are many more ways for sisters to usurp authority over the brothers than just by teaching or speaking in the assembly. All usurption of authority over the brothers is forbidden. In both ecclesial and family life sisters should concede the authority of final decisions to the brothers.

By God's creation, men are often guided by clearer, cooler reasoning than women and women are more prone to spur-of-the-moment, emotional decisions. Each sex by design has its own special capabilities. By their natures, men are born to be leaders of the needs of their wives and women are born to follow and to support their husbands in the Truth. Bro. Roberts expressed the difference beautifully in Law of Moses, p. 220:

"There is congruity in all the ways of God when the relations established by His law are observed. Man is the head, but only for nurture and protection and honour of the woman. Woman is man's equal fellow-heir of the salvation that is offered in Christ, but not to usurp the position that belongs to a man both by natural constitution and divine appointment. Man is for strength, judgment, and achievement. Woman is for grace, sympathy, and ministration. Between them, they form a beautiful unit - "heirs together of the grace of life."

When, where and to what extent is this "Silence" applied?

This question is not a new one to our community. In an April 1889 Christadelphian Magazine (p. 209) the questioned was asked:

"Please say at what meetings the above quotation ('keep silence in the churches') should be observed.

Answer: The injunctions upon this point are to the effect that it is not permissible for a woman to teach or speak 'in the church' or 'in the churches' - that is, in the public assemblies of the saints. . . .For it is not based on the character of the meeting, but on the fact that - 'Adam was first formed, then eve,' and that 'Adam was not deceived, but the woman' (I Tim. 2:11-14). This being so, as the apostle says, 'The head of the woman is the man" (1 Cor. 11:3). We have here, therefore, a principle of ethnical, and therefore universal application: . . . Hence, says the apostle, 'It is a shame for a woman to speak in the church' (1Cr. 14:35). In the light of 1 Tm. 2, it is usurpation of authority over the man.

The commandment, therefore, which enjoins silence on woman, and forbids them to speak or teach in the ecclesia, is a law that derives its ecclesial bearing from the fact that ecclesial meetings are the meetings of a mixed assembly. It is a rule, therefore, that applies to mixed assemblies.

. . .There are mixed meetings of a simply conversational character, as the periodic coming together of the brother and sister teachers of the Sunday School to talk over the lessons. To this there seems to be no reasonable objection, either on the score of 'shame' or 'usurpation.'

But under the circumstances where 'the whole church is come together into one place,' it is expressly excluded. The thing that called forth the Apostle's remarks upon this subject was evidently the case of sisters speaking, teaching, or asking public questions in the regular assemblings of the ecclesia."


A woman should not be "permitted" by the brethren

while "the whole ecclesia be come together into one place . . . so that all may learn and all may be comforted."

In which assemblies would this silence be required? A sister should "voluntarily refuse to speak" if she answers "yes" to this question.

Has "the whole ecclesia" been invited "to come together into one place" to "learn" or "be comforted"?

The wise sister will, upon prayerful reflection, have no difficulty in deciding what is the proper course for the welfare of herself, of the Truth, and of the Ecclesia. It is not a matter in which a wise sister will wish to be found by Christ to have played a questionable role, to the distress of her brethren and sisters. It is simply a matter of the appointments of God, and wise submission to them.

By God's wise design the beauty of the ecclesia has been carefully ordered. Let the sisters willingly take their appointed place.