1 Corinthians 14 – Prophecy and Tongues & The Role of Women in Religious Life in the Greco-Roman World

Mattei Athena at Louvre. Roman copy from the 1st century B.C./A.D. after a Greek original of the 4th century B.C., attributed to Cephisodotos or Euphranor.

In Greek religion and mythology, Athena or Athene, also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, just warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill.

Minerva is the Roman goddess identified with Athena.

Tomorrow we’ll look at…

1 Corinthians 14
Prophecy and Tongues

1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

14:1-5 – the basic principle Paul insists on is that whatever is done in the church must contribute to the edification (building up) of the body.  This is in keeping with the declaration in 12:7 that gifts are “given to everyman to profit withal.”

It also is in agreement with the principle of love (ch. 13).  What is spoken in the church, then, must be intelligible – it must be spoken in the vernacular language or at least be interpreted in the vernacular.

Prophecy is therefore more desirable than tongues (unless an interpreter is present) because prophecy is spoken in the native language of the listeners.

2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

“Greater is he that prophesieth” – because he serves the common good more effectively since what he says can be understood and thus edifies the church.

6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?

7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?

“Pipe or harp” – instruments well known in Greece.

8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

“The trumpet…prepare himself to the battle” – all Greeks would be acquainted with the sue of the trumpet or bugle for battle signals (cf. Homer’s Iliad, 18.219), and he Jews would be familiar with the use of the ram’s horn (Num 10:9; Josh 6:4, 9).

9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? For ye shall speak into the air.

After he swallowed her pregnant mother, Metis, Athena is “born” from Zeus’ forehead as he grasps the clothing of Eileithyia on the right —black-figured amphora, 550–525 B.C., Louvre.

10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.

11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.

12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.

14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.

15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?

Statue of Isis-Persephone with a sistrum. Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete.
In Greek mythology, Persephone also called Kore is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest-goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld.

Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable majestic queen of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead.

Persephone was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld.

The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest; hence she is also associated with spring as well as the fertility of vegetation.

Similar myths appear in the Orient, in the cults of male gods like Attis, Adonis and Osiris and in Minoan Crete.

17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:

19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

“Be not children in understanding” – just as in the case of infants, have no evil desires or wrong motives in wanting to excel in spiritual gifts as an end in itself.

21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.

“In the law” – Cf. Rom 3:10-19, where Paul quotes from a number of passages form the Old Testament, including Isaiah, and then in v. 19 collectively calls them “the law.”

22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:

25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

26 How is it then, brethren? When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

Demeter (from Ge-meter, earth-mother) was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea. She represented that portion of Gaia (the whole solid earth) which we call the earth’s crust, and which produces all vegetation.

As goddess of agriculture, field-fruits, plenty, and productiveness, she was the sustainer of material life, and was therefore a divinity of great importance.

When ancient Gaia lost, with Uranus, her position as a ruling divinity, she abdicated her sway in favour of her daughter Rhea, who henceforth inherited the powers which her mother had previously possessed, receiving in her place the honour and worship of mankind.

27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.

28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

30 If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.

31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.

32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

14:34-35 – it seems best to understand vv. 34-35 in the light of the immediate context – vv. 29-33.  God gave to women the gift of prophesying (11:5; Acts 2:17, 21:9) but not ruling authority over men (1 Tim 2:11-12).

I am not certain what Paul is saying when he says, “Let your women keep silence in the churches” because of Joyce Meyer, Advent Bangun, Anita C. Hill, Åsa Waldau, Becky Fischer, Beverly Yvonne, Bimbo Odukoya, Bobbie Houston, Darlene Zschech, Heidi Neumark, Ida Robinson, and many more.

35 And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

36 What? Came the word of God out from you? Or came it unto you only?

37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.

38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.

39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

40 Let all things be done decently and in order. 

The Role of Women in Religious Life
in the Greco-Roman World

The religious activities of women in the Greco-Roman world spanned, a wide range and exhibited enormous diversity.

Relief panel from an altar to Venus and Mars depicting Romulus and Remus suckling the she-wolf, and gods representing Roman topography such as the Tiber river and Palatine Hill.

The Roman mythological tradition is particularly rich in historical myths, or legends, concerning the foundation and rise of the city.

These narratives focus on human actors, with only occasional intervention from deities but a pervasive sense of divinely ordered destiny.

For Rome’s earliest period, history and myth are difficult to distinguish.

Some mystery cults included ecstatic, orgiastic worship in which women played a prominent role, and priestesses were common in the worship of Greek goddesses.

Some religious festivals in Greece were exclusively for women; an example is the Thesmophoria, which honored the goddess Demeter.

The Bachae, a play by the Greek poet Euripides (5th century B.C.),tells of frenzied religious celebration of the god Dionysus by women who followed his cult.

Other pagan religions created space for significant sexual expression during religious festivals, and fertility cults employed women for the purpose of ritual or sacred prostitution.

On the other hand, within Judaism women’s access to the inner courts of the Jerusalem temple was restricted, and scholars debate whether the synagogues of the time displayed gender segregation.

In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul provided guidelines for orderly worship, including some instructions specifically addressing the activities of women in worship (vv. 33-35).

Roman relief depicting a scene of sacrifice, with libations at a flaming altar and the victimarius carrying the sacrificial axe.

Evidence from Corinth reveals that the city contained several temples to Aphrodite and Apollo, and Paul’s readers would have been familiar with these and with other cults that were widespread in the Greco-Roman world.

It appears that women have never been treated the way God wanted them to be treated.  Even with women lib in the United States men still don’t treat them equal. 

We must remember though that the devil runs this world and he is not only evil, but gay.

…baptism for the dead.