Bible scholar says verse used to justify banning women from priesthood was 'added later'

A U.S. scholar has claimed that a verse in 1 Corinthians was not originally a part of the Bible, but was added later. | Pixabay/AgnieszkaMonk

A U.S. academic has claimed that a verse in 1 Corinthians that says women should be silent in church was not originally a part of the Bible, but was added later.

In a recent article published by Cambridge University Press, Dr. Philip Barton Payne suggested that 1 Corinthians 14:34, which has been used to justify banning women from the priesthood, was not written by St. Paul as is widely believed, adding that it is not consistent with other parts of the apostle's letters to the Corinthians.

"Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says," the verse in question reads.

Payne said that the verse is not consistent with 1 Corinthians 11:5, which says: "every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head." He asserted that the latter verse could be an indication that women are allowed to preach.

In his analysis of the relevant passage in the Codex Vaticanus, one of the oldest versions of the Greek Bible in existence, Payne found a symbol called a "distigme-obelos," which he says is used by scribes to identify added texts that did not appear in the original.

"This study demonstrates that scribe B was a careful textual critic who identifies 1 Cor 14.34–5, the only Bible passage silencing women in the church, as added text," Payne said, as reported by The Telegraph.

"Vaticanus provides early and credible judgement in what is widely regarded as the most important NT manuscript that vv. 34–5 were not in the body text Paul's original letter, but are a later addition," he continued.

Payne stressed that his discovery is theologically important because it provides a resolution to the "notorious difficulty" of reconciling the verse in question to St. Paul's affirmation of women serving equally with men in vocal ministry.

Some scholars have also suggested that the passage was not written by Paul because it appears in a different place in some early versions of the texts. Experts have argued that the passage was added by someone else after the letter was written because, in some texts, it appears after verse 40, which is the end of the chapter.

However, other scholars have contended that the possible addition of the verse could be explained differently.

Pieter Lalleman, tutor in Biblical Studies at Spurgeon's College, pointed out that while the verse appears in different places in some versions of the text, they are not completely absent from any surviving manuscript. He told Christian Today that the inconsistency in the placing of the passage could be explained by "the fact that at one stage a copyist forgot the verses and added them at the end of the chapter."