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"Women Tongue Speakers, Be Silent": a Reconstruction Through Paul's Rhetoric 1

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Whereas interpreters commonly assert that women play a marginal role in 1 Corinthians 12-14, this article argues that Paul's prohibition of women's public speaking in 1 Cor. 14:34 is actually the main issue. Paul's use of the insinuatio, the Subtle Approach, as his rhetorical strategy is the key interpreters need to reconstruct the rhetorical situation and to understand adequately his argumentation. A group of tongue-speaking women who have gained the status of a spiritual elite, pose a threat to Paul and create disorder in the worship services. In a critical dialogue with Antoinette Clark Wire, it is maintained that Paul designates these women pneumatics to be not "prophets" but merely "tongue speakers."Paul uses much male/female imagery for the polemical purpose of making a gender-based dissociation and redefinition of the wider phenomenon "inspired speech," into the categories "prophecy" and "glossolalia."He connects prophecy with rationality, order and male social roles in the public sphere, and glossolalia with contemporary ideas of female inferiority. Paul's negative portrayal of glossolalia is part of his rhetorical effort to silence the women tongue speakers in the church meeting.

Affiliations: 1: University of Lund


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