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Women and Glossolalia in Pauline Communities:

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The Relationship between Pneumatic Gifts 
and Authority

image of Biblical Interpretation

The egalitarian vision of the Pauline communities based upon Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s discovery of a baptismal creedal formulation in Gal. 3:28 continues to impact current scholars’ notion of the prominent role of women in the Pauline communities. This article examines the extent of the role of the Corinthian women vis-à-vis Mary McClintock Fulkerson’s study of glossolalic women in late twentieth-century Appalachian churches. Her findings reveal that tongues-speaking women have authority only within the bounds of oral participation in worship; in all other circumstances they live under stricter patriarchal social structures than do their female contemporaries. Using the model of the glossolalic Appalachian churches to shed light upon the role of women in the Corinthian church exposes the possibility of a complex social dynamic with regard to women’s authority. By understanding Paul’s affirmation of women’s leadership as limited to those moments of ecstatic, spirit-driven speech—much in the same way as it is currently practiced in glossolalic Appalachian churches—then the seeming incongruities of such restrictive passages in 1 Corinthians (e.g. 14:34-35) to the more accepting of women’s participation in the worship service (e.g. 1 Cor. 11:5) are explained.

Affiliations: 1: East Carolina University, USA


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