The title of a post at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, International SBL Meetings in Auckland, New Zealand, gave me little clue to the great significance of its content, the second paragraph. I would of course like to see the paper of which this is a summary. But it seems to have overthrown one of the main bases within the New Testament text for the complementarian position, and demonstrated why many translations of the passage in question, 1 Corinthians 14:33-34, are in error.
The standard Greek texts, Nestle-Aland 27th edition and UBS 4th edition, put a paragraph break in the middle of verse 33 and no punctuation at all to separate it from verse 34. That is, they associate the phrase translated “as in all the churches of the saints” with the following main clause rather than the preceding one. As such they depart from the tradition established by KJV and before that by whoever divided the text into verses, and strengthened by the English Revised Version (1881) which indicates a paragraph break at the start of verse 34. But by the time of the RSV (1946/1971) the interpretation had changed, and this translation has the same breaks as the Greek texts, as do NIV (1978/1984) and NRSV (1989). But TNIV (2001/2005), has reverted almost to the ERV punctuation, with a new paragraph at the start of verse 34; as such it reflects the preference of Gordon Fee, one of its translation team, as expressed in his 1987 commentary on 1 Corinthians. Indeed Fee writes (p.697 footnote 49):
The idea that v. 33b goes with v. 34 seems to be a modern phenomenon altogether.
What was the reason for the change between ERV and RSV? Was there some technicality in the Greek text, not recognised by earlier scholars or only found in more recent manuscripts, which suggested the paragraph division in the scholarly texts? Or might it just be that editors preferred a reading which strengthened Paul’s supposed instruction in verse 34 that women should be silent? After all, in Romans 16:7 the same Greek text editors, with no manuscript evidence at all, supplied the accents for the unattested male name Junias rather than for the well known female name Junia, for which the only possible explanation is a theological preference. If they preferred a “complementarian” reading in Romans, it seems quite plausible that they made a similar decision in 1 Corinthians.
And that suspicion seems to me to be confirmed by the paper presented at SBL in New Zealand. For the paper concludes that
the overwhelming consensus among the manuscripts [is] that the major punctuation or segmentation break should be at the end of v. 33, not in the middle of the verse. This would result in “as in all the churches of the saints” being applied to the principle of God being one of order, not disorder, and would negate applying this WS [i.e. “as” in Greek] clause to verses 34-35.
Of course this conclusion does not in itself invalidate the statement that (literally) “the women should be silent in the churches”. But it does reduce the emphasis on it and the grounds for taking this as a rule for all time rather than a situational and temporary one. It also opens the way for two alternative interpretations of verses 34-35, one that these are words of the Corinthians which Paul rejects in verse 36; and the other, preferred by Fee with some slight manuscript support, that these verses are not an original part of the letter but a marginal gloss incorporated by mistake into the text. Both of these alternatives work only if the “as” phrase (not a clause!) at the end of verse 33 is taken with what comes before it.
Once again TNIV has made the right decision here, anticipating the results presented in the SBL paper and returning to the paragraph division of ERV, which was abandoned for no good reason.