Evidence for the authenticity of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (Part 2)

I here present the second part in my short series of posts, furnishing the reader with some evidence in support of the authenticity of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, from the writings of early Christian theologians.

This, and my preceding post in the series, are following on from an article recently published in the Telegraph which highlighted new research published in the journal New Testament Studies suggesting the passage may not be an original part of Paul’s letter, but was added later.

(Just as an aside: Since the previous post was published, Ian Paul has also looked at this issue from an entirely different angle. You can find his thoughts on his blog, Psephizo.)

The text in question is as follows:—

“As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”
(1 Corinthians 14:33b-35)

In view of the controversies around this passage in contemporary debate, it will not be amiss for me to repeat the important disclaimer I made in the first post in this series:—

  1. It is not within the remit of etimasthe.com to adopt a particular stance on the issue of women in the presbyterate or in the episcopate (in other words, women vicars and bishops respectively).
  1. This post, therefore, will only concern itself with the authenticity of the above text. What one then does theologically with the text, assuming its authenticity or otherwise, will not be our concern here.
  1. I am no expert in ancient biblical manuscripts. I will therefore make no comment on the validity or otherwise of the evidence of the ‘distigme-obelos’ symbol found in the margin of several passages of the Codex Vaticanus as discussed here (you can find pictures of this symbol here and here).
  1. If you’ve stumbled across this page wondering, “What do Christians believe?”, this is not the place to find out. In this post we are concerned only with one tiny, very particular question about one tiny, very particular passage in one particular letter out of the 27 books of the New Testament. So if you’ve come here wanting to know what Christians believe, may I humbly point you in the direction either of my explanation of the gospel here, or indeed of Glen Scrivener’s much better one here.

Having said all this, let us now look at our fourth passage from the early Christian writers in support of the authenticity of 1 Corinthians 14:34:

Exhibit D: Cyprian, ‘Treatises’, Treatise XII, Third Book

“[Cyprian] seems to have started writing during a period of retirement under the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Decius (A.D. 249—251).”

Cyprian was bishop of the North African city of Carthage from A.D. 248 until his martyrdom in A.D. 258. He was a great admirer of the presbyter and theologian Tertullian, also of Carthage, whose evidence we studied in the previous instalment. He seems to have started writing during a period of retirement under the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Decius (A.D. 249—251).[1]

“46. That a woman ought to be silent in the church.

“In the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians: ‘Let women be silent in the church. But if any wish to learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home.’[2] Also to Timothy: ‘Let a woman learn with silence, in all subjection. But I do not permit a woman to teach, nor to be set over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not seduced, but the woman was seduced.’[3][4]

Cyprian came along a generation after Tertullian, and was well aware of his writings. Indeed, it is said of Cyprian that he would never pass a day without reading the works of Tertullian, calling his secretary to fetch him some work of his with the words, “Bring me my master.”

“[Cyprian] confirms that [he] found in his copy of 1 Corinthians the passage which Tertullian found in his.”

The citation above is taken from a treatise dated A.D. 248.[5]

The value of this citation is that:

  • it confirms that Cyprian found in his copy of 1 Corinthians the passage which Tertullian found in his; and
  • it gives the source of the passage, “In the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians,” albeit without stating in exactly what position in the letter. (Some copies of the New Testament have verse 34 displaced to the end of the chapter.[6])

Conclusion

We have seen that Cyprian, bishop of Carthage around the middle of the third century, confirms the earlier witness of Tertullian to this verse.

In the third and final instalment of this short series, we shall consider the evidence provided by the Apostolic Constitutions. We shall also be asking ourselves the question, “Why do we not have (at least to my knowledge) any earlier witnesses to the text than Tertullian?”

 

 

Note
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Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 


[1] See biographical information at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.iv.ii.html

[2] 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

[3] 1 Timothy 2:11-14

[4] Taken from the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V, which can be found online at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.html. I have slightly adapted the text into more modern English.

[5] See http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.iv.v.xii.i.html and footnote 3812 there.

[6] See, e.g., here, near the end of the article.

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