this will be a long post. Get yourself a cup of coffee before you start. :-D
The church of Christ struggles with your question and has done for centuries. Much though I respect the thoughts of SIers we are unlikely to solve it this morning!;-) But we might find some pointers which help in our larger understanding. As a group leader, pastor, bible college tutor and now itinerant bible teacher, and in many different cultures, I have been asked these questions constantly and I have given much thought and prayer not only to the biblical statements but to a pastoral care for those involved. What follows will not be a quick fix and may provide more questions than answers but I don't think anyone will suffer from thinking a little more...
For me Paul's reference to the woman praying or prophesying is clear proof that a woman was not required to be absolutely silent in the gathering of the church. I know the cessationists would differ but that is a different topic.
One of the first things I discovered is that the word for 'silence' is frequently used in a comparative sense in the New Testament. One interesting passage is in the Acts; And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying, Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) (Act 21:40-22:2 KJV) This has a 'great silence' followed by even 'more silence'. It seems clear to me that we are not talking about absolute silences here and I do not feel that Paul is talking about absolute silences in the churches.
Another thing I noticed is that although some have interpreted some of these passages to mean that the woman must remain soundless in the assembly some of the words used have a different feel to them. The word used in 1 Tim 2:11 'let the woman learn in silence' is used elsewhere by Paul; Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.(2Th 3:12 KJV) where the sense is obvious. This has to do with tranquility rather than decibels. In fact Paul uses it earlier in 1 Timothy; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. (1Ti 2:2 KJV) where it is translated 'peaceable'. The sense is 'without aggitation'. These uses show that the underlying sense is calm and tranquility rather than an absolute silence.
The same word is used by Peter in a way which I think is deeply suggestive; Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. (1Pe 3:3-6 KJV) This is helpful because of its context. Peter does not want the woman to be conspicuous. It is also significant that Sarah is mentioned who was certainly not 'silent'; on one occasion God told Abraham to listen to Sarah and do what she wanted! But the 'feel' of the word is coming through again, God regards a woman's 'quiet spirit' as of great price. This is an unusual expression that God should highly value this characteristic in the woman. A similar expression is used in the Psalms where it says 'precious, in the eyes of the Lord, is the death of his saints'. I see an hidden truth here; all those little deaths that we die to 'our right to ourself', they are precious to God, perhaps because they carry the scent of Calvary?
Another thing I notice is that the notion 'silence' is often highly context-sensitive. The Corinthian references are all in one chapter, and are highly "context sensitive". The context is the gathered assembly. The whole of chapter 14 is in the public gathering of the saints. The phrase "whole church" shows us that at times "parts" of the church would meet together in "house-meetings".1Co 14:19,23,28,34-35
The first "silence" in Chapter 14 is enjoined upon a speaker in tongues, who must be "silent" when there is no interpreter. 1 Co 14:27 If any man speak in an [unknown] tongue, [let it be] by two, or at the most [by] three, and [that] by course; and let one interpret. 14:28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. This "silence" must be interpreted in its current context. This only means that the "tongue speaker" must refrain from giving a public utterance in an unknown tongue if there is no interpreter of tongues present. It does not mean that he must remain without sound with regard to other kinds of utterance e.g. prophecy or teaching.
The second silence in Chapter 14 is enjoined upon a prophet, who must give way to another who also has a revelation 1 Co 14:29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 14:30 If [any thing] be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace 14:31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted The same word is used here. This too must be interpreted in in its current context. It simply means that a prophet who realizes that another has a revelation must make space for him. Subsequently the prophet who had been "silent" might add a further prophecy, or contribute to the meeting in some other way.
The third silence in Chapter 14 is enjoined upon women, whom the law has commanded to be "subject" 1 Co 14:34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 14:35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. In what context is women to be "silent"? In the context of submission to God's order in authority.
We have already been told that a woman may pray or prophesy [1 Co 11:4] so it is obvious that the scriptures are not shutting the woman up to absolute soundlessness. If this did mean absolute soundlessness it would also constitute a ban on women singing in the meeting. It is a basic principle of reasoning that the second statement of 1 Co 14:34 must be added to the earlier statement of 1 Cor 11:5, and a conclusion reached which does justice to both statements. Having read plainly that a woman may pray or prophesy we need to be clear about the context in which she must be "silent. In those other forms of utterance she is not required to be "silent". It is important to identify the current context to determine when and why the woman must be "silent". The woman is to be submitted.. as also saith the Law. what does Paul have in mind when he makes this comment when discussing the relationship between man and woman the Lord drew his teaching from the beginning. In the tangle of relationship between man and woman it is essential to go back to first principles. In a related passage Paul links the role of the woman in the church with the creation. [1 Tim 2:12] It is almost certain that Paul's mind in the beginnings of things when her refers to "as also saith the Law". The Law here referring to the books of Moses, including Genesis. Having announced to the Serpent that his head would be bruised by the woman's issue God then addressed the woman. He spoke of three facts of life for the woman. Sometimes this is expressed as the woman cursed, although the scripture nowhere uses that language. The pattern of God's dealing with the Serpent, the woman and the man is intreaguing. Penalty came on the serpent because of the temptation. Penalty came on the man because of his yielding. But God's words words to the woman do not contain the word "because". The scripture simply declares And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; (Gen 3:14-18 KJV)
The words to the woman are simply a statement of the will of God with no reference to their cause. They include three clauses there would be increase in pain and conception there would be pain in the birth of children the pattern of the relationship between the man and woman is described. It is this last clause which is most likely in the mind of Paul when he says that the Law saith that the woman in to be subject to the man. The relationship is described from two perspectives. The woman's; your desire shall be to your husband. The man's; he shall rule over you. Shall we regard this as a curse, a provision or just a plain statement of facts?
The woman's desire would be towards her husband. The word desire used here is thought to have the sense of "stretching out" towards something. It is a word of longing and affection used only seldom in the scriptures [Ge 3:16 4:7 Sol 7:10] The corresponding action of the man was to rule. Paul speaks of the woman's designated position under the law. The Law nowhere banned women from praying or prophesying. The examples of Deborah and Huldah illustrate this. [Judges 4:4 5:1 2Ki 22:14.] In the New Testament we may add the daughters of Philip, Acts 21:8,9. Neither does the Law ever enjoin "silence" upon the woman. What the Law does do is make a clear distinction between the function of male and female in the question of authority. There is pattern and order to the relationship of man to woman which may be expressed in a single idea. God holds the man responsible. This is codified in Numbers 30, where a woman's vows were to be endorsed by the man whom God held responsible for her well-being. In the case of single woman the man was the father. In the case of a married woman the man was the husband. The woman is the weaker vessel. This is a bible revelation. [1 Pet 3:7] It may not be possible to give a positive statement to say in which sense she is weaker, but we are furnished with this plain truth that the woman is the weaker vessel. We can affirm that in many cases the woman is stronger physically, emotionally and intellectually, but we are still left with the bible statement that the woman is to be considered "as" the weaker vessel. Man's "strength" is not to be used against the woman's "weakness", for his own interests but for hers. His "strength" is at her service in her "weakness". This helps in an understanding of Numbers 30. The man is responsible in caring for the woman in the case of public vows which she may make. The man is not denying her her own responsibilities, but is covering her protectively. His silence is taken as his silent protection still operative. The man does not make decisions for the woman, which are then imposed upon her. His responsibility toward the woman can only operate in a veto of her ill- advised decision. He has the responsibility of saying yes or no, but she has the responsibility of whether to vow or not.
I do not allow a woman to teach... I have often wondered just what "teaching" means in these letters. When we think of a "teacher" we think of a Bible expositor or something similar, but a "teacher" or someone "teaching" in the Corinthian assembly would not be giving an exposition of 1 Corinthians! It seems to me that the "teacher" in the early church had a responsibility in actually formulating the "doctrine" of the early church. There were no credal statement to judge orthodoxy. The "teacher" then bore a very great responsibility, and his "teachings" would carry considerable authority. It is in the carrying of authority that the scriptures are most mindful of the woman's need for protection. Adam was not deceived, but Eve was. It seems to me that it is in this carrying of authority the woman is the "weaker vessel", and that the man must always keep that in mind. It is to be noted that Paul did not forbid woman to evangelize (preach), or to pray or to prophesy or to bear witness. It was only "teaching" which he would not allow. The woman must not carry the burden of systematizing truth nor of producing the assembly's "doctrinal statement". She may well have the ability to do so, and perhaps more so than many men, but "authority" in the church resides in the Man (Christ) who is represented in the church by the males. For this reason he is not permitted to cover his head, because that would symbolize that Christ's authority was still "veiled", whereas God has publically declared Him to be both Lord and Christ. In the gathered assembly "authority" must be male. Only in this context of "authority" is the woman is to remain "silent".
I do not equate authority with leadership. Leadership can be an event not a role. Often in our own meeting a woman will pray and the meeting will follow her 'lead'. Often they will prophesy and the meeting will follow their 'lead' but they do not hold recognized authority in the oversight of the church. Their opinions are listened to and as we seek God together every voice has the same value, but in terms of authority we do not allow a woman to exercise authority over a man.
One final comment on this 'introduction'.. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. (1Ti 2:12 KJV) Both these verbs are in the present infinitive form. Greek infinitives, unlike English ones, contain a tense, and this one is 'present'. Greek present tenses have more of a continuous sense that our simple English present tense. The consequence is that a super-pedantic translation of this verse would say I am not allowing a woman to be teaching or to be authorit-ing a man. If this were an Aorist Infinitive it would mean 'to teach' but this is a Present Infinitve and it means 'to continually teach' I think Paul has in mind, not an event, but a regular role.
There's a lot to work through here, and your specific questions have still not been answered, but I felt this thread had got to the stage where some explanation, rather than a quick fix answer, was required. This is the distillation of over 45 years study and meditation on this topic! and even so I have to say that this is 'state of the art', my current understanding, and even here 'we know in part...'