ABC:1 Corinthians 11

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Verse 5, Are Women Allowed to Prophesy?[edit]

RationalWiki lists the following as a Bible contradiction with the headline "Women allowed to prophesy or not?"[1] Comments by the critic are italicized.

Women Allowed to Prophesy or Not?

There is an inconsistency of sorts called out by John Calvin in a commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:

1 Corinthians 11:5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

1 Timothy 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

1 Timothy 2:12 prohibits women from any sort of religious teaching, but 1 Corinthians 11:5 implies that women are allowed to make prophecies — and a prophet was counted among the highest religious teachers in those days — although they cannot do it without a head-covering on.

Calvin acknowledges this implication, but says it is unintentional and that "the Apostle, by here condemning [prophesying without a head-covering], does not commend [prophesying with a head-covering]." This passes the strictest logical muster, but again conflicts with the literalists' idea of "clarity of scripture," especially since people's honor appears to hang in the balance.

First of all, cases of women prophesying and teaching throughout the Bible can be readily identified. The four widowed (Grk. parthenos) daughters of one man all prophesied, per Acts 21:9. Godly women throughout the Bible prophesied. Deborah, a leader of Israel, was also described as a prophetess in Judges 4:4; and prophesied in Judges 5 following a military victory in which she was aided by God. There are a number of cases where godly women prophesied upon giving birth, see Hannah (1 Samuel 2), Elisabeth (Luke 1:42-45), and Mary (Luke 1:46-55). There is also the case of Priscilla, who with her husband Aquilla, instructed Apollos, who with Paul was one of the greatest teachers of the early Church. (Acts 18:26) Priscilla is one of several women Paul describes as fellow helpers in Romans 16, indeed she and her husband stayed with Paul while all working together making tents (Acts 18:2,18); Paul also mentions Phebe, and urges the early Church to assist her in whatever business she is engaged in, (Romans 16:1) who sent the entire letter of Romans on Paul's behalf, and may have even transcribed it for Paul. (Romans 16:27; cp. Galatians 6:11)


  1. RationalWiki Editors (2019). "Biblical Contradictions." RationalWiki.