Holy Women Who Hoped in God – I Peter 3:5

Holy Women Who Hoped in God: I Peter 3:5 | RachelShubin.comI’m tired. After reading yet another round of blog posts about wives submitting, submitting more, and oh yeah, are you really submitting enough, I’ve just had it, particularly when the hypothetical situation presented in the post has all the hallmarks of being an abusive one. I’m not going to link to the particular post because it’s irrelevant. It’s not an anomalous post. It’s the same post I’ve seen over and over for years with different fictitious names attached to the made-up characters.

Is your husband throwing things and screaming obscenities at you and the toddlers? Submit more, be extra sweet to him, and tell everyone how great he is. That’ll soften his heart and fix him right up. See? I Peter 3 says so, particularly verses 5 and 6 (substitute Eph. 5:22-23 or Colossians 3:18 if you need some other passages to cherry-pick from. I’ve written on Eph. 5 here). If it’s an Abigail situation, you can leave, but right up until he tries to kill you or asks you to do something illegal, the Bible says you have to obey him and win him by your quiet demeanor. Out of the entire compendium of Scripture, I can’t imagine why these verses are the ones that get shoved at heartbroken, terrified women, but that’s a topic for another post (which I am working on).

Anyway, this particular post went with the I Peter passage for its proof text, and verses 5 & 6 caught my eye:


So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves and were submissive to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you.


A couple years ago I did a fair amount of research on Sarah, which I’ll go over in Part 2 (the cross-reference here is hilarious), but this time around I got to wondering about the “holy women who hoped in God.” Hmmm, what holy women are we talking about? If the Biblical ideal is a gentle, quiet, submissive woman who cheerfully obeys her husband’s every word (or father’s or whatever authority is around) even if she disagrees with it, and if Peter is pointing his readers to their examples here, then there should be examples to follow of women like this all over the Bible, right? Shouldn’t be too hard to find. Let’s take a look at most of the prominent and some of the obscure women of the Old Testament who that are either generally thought of today as good examples or who are referred to in complimentary terms elsewhere in the Bible. Let’s find all the submissive women!


No. Rebekah goes directly against Isaac’s wishes to give Esau the inheritance after the Lord specifically speaks to her while the twins are in the womb and tells her that the elder with serve the younger. God tells her that Jacob is the one, but Isaac wasn’t going with the program. After Rebekah tricks Isaac into giving Jacob the inheritance and gets Jacob out of the county before Esau kills him, not only is she not censured for any of this deception, but she is one of only three people in the Bible mentioned as willing to “take the curse” on themselves for the sake of God’s chosen people. The other two are no less than Paul and Jesus himself (fascinating article about this point here, beginning about halfway down after the Bonhoeffer part).  (Genesis 27:1-28:2)


No. Jacob consults her and Leah both on whether to move or not even after God tells him he has to go. Jacob makes no commands, demands, or even requests for them to go with them. He explains the situation, and then his wives mull it over and respond that this is acceptable and coincides with their own reasons for going. The conversation ends with Rachel and Leah telling Jacob, “So do whatever God has told you,” which sounds very much like permission and assent that they will go as well. It’s an excellent example of mutual cooperation, and this is in a situation where God clearly commanded him to go! (Genesis 31:1-16)


HAHAHAHA! No. After her husband dies and his next brother down gets himself all smited up for sleeping with her and then purposely doing the pull-out routine so he doesn’t have to provide her with an heir as was the legal deal at the time (can’t be sharing the inheritance!), Judah (Tamar’s father-in-law) refuses to fulfill his promise to give her his last son so she can bear a child. Choosing the obvious solution to the problem, she dresses up like a prostitute and tricks Judah into sleeping with her without him figuring out it was her.

When she gets pregnant with Judah’s child, he tries to have her executed (by burning!), but she turns the tables on him when she proves the child is his. Not only is she not censured in any way for this, but Judah specifically says that her behavior is more righteous than his. And… not only that, but their son ends up in the line of Christ, and Tamar herself is the first of only three women that Matthew mentions by name in his genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1 (not counting Mary).

Have you ever heard a sermon on Tamar? I haven’t, although now I really want to. I woke up this morning with a whole theory about her story, which at first blush seems like a super weird one to be pointing at and saying, “Yeah, that woman was great!” Anyone else heard a sermon on this Tamar (not the other one, David’s daughter who gets raped by her brother)? (Genesis 38; Matthew 1:3)

Israelite midwives?

No. They disregard royal edict and save bunches of boy babies from slaughter. (Exodus 1:15-22)

Jochebed (Moses’ mother)?

No. She also disregards royal edict and saves baby Moses by sending him down the river in a basket to hide his identity, which is a terrifying option just to consider. (Exodus 2:1-3)


No. She was brave even as a child when she arranged for Moses’ mother to nurse Moses for Pharoah’s daughter after Pharoah’s daughter found baby Moses in a basket among the reeds (Exodus 2). Later she was a Prophetess and a pretty big deal of a woman, leading alongside Moses and Aaron after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. Managed to get her own song into the Bible. (Exodus 15; Numbers 12)

Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah?

Never heard of them? They were Zelophehad’s five daughters who convinced Moses to give them a portion of their father’s inheritance after he died instead of passing it all on to their uncles. These women are mentioned five times in the Old Testament. (Num. 26:33; 27:1-7; 36:1-12; 1 Chr. 7:15; Josh. 17:1-6)


Don’t know who she is either? Achsah was Caleb’s daughter, who requested an inheritance of land from him. When he agreed, she then asked him for that other part over there with the streams on it too, which he also gave her. (Josh. 15:16-19)


No. Rahab was a hooker from Jericho who become traitor to her own people by protecting the Israelite spies. She manages not only to not get herself killed by either side in the process but saves her entire family as well. She too was a direct ancestor of both King David and Jesus, and Rahab the foreign-born prostitute is number two of the three women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ. (Joshua 2; Matthew 1:5)


Weeeeell, acting on a little plotting advice from her mother-in-law, Ruth secures herself a new husband by snazzing herself up, putting on perfume, and then sneaking over to the threshing floor on threshing party night after Boaz is fed, properly wine-ed up, and asleep, which means she can curl up beside him on his hay bed and ask him to marry her when he startles himself awake. She is the third and last woman to get a nod in Matthew’s genealogy. Did I mention that Rahab was Boaz’s Mom? The guys in that family seem to like strong foreign women who graft themselves into Israel. Interesting that these three women – Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth – are the ones who make it into the genealogy (Ruth 3; Matthew 1:5).


No. Deborah judges Israel faithfully and leads it to success in war. Her reign is followed by 40 years of peace, and she is the only judge with such a strong record. Even though Barak was the general, Deborah called him out when he wasn’t doing what he was supposed to be doing, and Barak even begged her to come along to the battle even though she said his glory would be given over to a woman if she did (see Jael below). Deborah, not Barak, called the army to advance, and Barak took direction from her. Oh! Also, she’s married, and her husband doesn’t really factor in to the story at all. Presumably he doesn’t mind her having the highest position in the land and doing such a bang-up job at it. (Judges 4-5)


Uhhh, super no. She violates her husband’s peace treaty with King Jabor, Isreal’s enemy, by cracking open Jabor’s top general’s head with a tent peg. This earns her a big section written about her exploits in a victory song! (Judges 4:215:24-27)


Barren Hannah prays for and is granted a son (Samuel), whom she brings to Eli the High Priest at age three to lend him to the Lord for the rest of his life. Hannah tells her husband Elkanah what she plans to do (it’s not phrased as a question), and he tells her to do what seems good to her. Like Jacob and Rachel, this passage also comes off as marital cooperation (in both cases with the husband deferring to his wife). (1 Samuel 1-2)


No. Abigail completely disregards her husband Nabal’s wishes to repay David rudely for the good David has done to Nabal’s shepherds, doesn’t have any kind of conversation with Nabal about his behavior or her plans to go directly against his orders (it specifically says she doesn’t tell him what she’s planning to do) but unilaterally decides to go off and take care of the problem herself. Then when she gets to David she doesn’t bother even trying to preserve Nabal’s reputation or speak well of him but chucks him right under the horse’s hooves and tells David that Nabal is worthless and foolish. This all manages to prevent her entire household from getting wiped out and results in her becoming wife to King David after the Lord strikes down Nabal ten days later. (1 Samuel 25)


Heard of her? She was a prophetess of enough renown that when Hilkiah the High Priest finds the Book of the Law, doesn’t even recognize it, and sends it off to King Josiah who has never seen it either, Josiah sends emissaries with the book to the prophetess Huldah to find out what’s the what. None of the men there seem too buzzed by the fact of her authority regarding Scripture including the King, the High Priest, and her husband; and they all take her seriously when the word she sends back to Josiah amounts to “God says you guys are toast.” (II Kings 22:3-20; II Chronicles 34: 8-33)


Ahhh, Esther. After being kidnapped and groomed to extra-beauteousness for an entire year with a whole bunch of other pretty girls, Jewish Esther goes in to the king who thinks she’s the super-fanciest and makes her queen; however, she can only go back into his presence at his request. After discovering that the king is planning to wipe out all the Jews in the entire country, she risks her own life by going in to him anyway and manages to talk him out of genocide. I think Esther is probably the closest to the ideal submissive wife, but that raises the question Why is the supplication method of a teenage, captive, kidnapped girl whose erratic husband threw out the last wife and whom it was illegal for her to go talk to unless her husband invited her now the suggested marital model for free, adult, married women? Weird that she was so submissive!

Esther’s situation would be similar to a young Christian girl getting kidnapped by ISIS and then married off to the unstable head warlord who is plotting to kill off all the Christians in the entire country. Asking your husband to maybe not do that in the most submissive, demure way possible would be absolutely advisable. Doing so any other way and even doing so at all are both likely to end in death. Escape is not an option. Is this in any way similar to a free, adult equal explaining her desires, requests, or complaints to her counterpart (wives are at least ontologically equal, right?)? Is this the model for our Christian spousal relationships? Also, she doesn’t listen to her husband’s authority. She bypasses him entirely and listens to her uncle. (Esther 4:11; 5:1)

The Proverbs 31 woman?

While she is usually held up as the ideal wife, several things about her don’t exactly fit the party line. While she is a capable manager of her home and kind to all, she is also shrewd in business and real estate, and the word translated “virtuous” here is translated as “valiant” or some other word denoting strength all the other times it is used in the Bible except for twice in Proverbs when referring to women and once in Ruth where it is often translated “excellent” (I’ve written about this here). Nowhere does it imply that her capabilities are subject to or dependent upon either her father or her husband. It does, however, say that her husband prospers because of her.

So, what example is Peter trying to get across to the women he’s writing to by pointing them to the holy women of former times? Is it unilateral obedience in all circumstances? I don’t think so. None of those women had a clear “Yes, sir” relationship with authority in which they operated solely as an obedient subordinate.

Some of them went directly against their civic rulers (Esther, Moses’ mother, the Israelite midwives, Rahab), some against their husbands or other males in their household (Abigail, Rebekah, Tamar, Jael), some of them were rulers or in authority themselves (Deborah, Huldah), some operated on a cooperative give-and-take with their husbands (Rachel, Hannah, Sarah), and some just waltzed up and boldly explained what they wanted or needed (Zelophehad’s daughters, Achsah, Ruth). You could argue for many of them that the times they act counter to what they’ve been told is when they are directly asked to sin, but I think that overlooks some interesting occasions.

Arguably Ruth could have seen Naomi’s plotting as sinful and said no but didn’t, and many of these women seem to have relationships with their husbands that appear unconcerned with who is supposed to be submitting to whom. I think Peter is trying to tell the women he’s writing to that there is a balance between cooperation and resistance, and both are viable options depending on the circumstances.

Most of the teaching I’ve heard on these women over the years, which has been extremely minimal for most and none at all for the rest, has been quick to point out that each one was an exception. Deborah was the only woman judge. She was an exception to God’s design, and therefore nothing to aspire to. Rebekah was tricky. Esther and Ruth are both ok. They both do what their uncle and mother-in-law tell them to do, and it works out. Oh, and Abigail. Oddly, that story doesn’t really get much fuller explanation because of those pesky talking bad about her husband and going behind his back bits.

What I see when I look at this is not a list of exceptions. It’s a pattern. It’s a pattern of valiant women, strong women who put themselves in danger to protect others, who stand up to people when God tells them to regardless of whether that person is their husband, king, or enemy general. It’s a pattern of cooperation when possible and resistance when cooperation is impossible. It’s a pattern of God’s protection and provision. It’s a pattern of women of courage and faithfulness. This is our legacy and our inheritance. We are mighty women of God, holy women of old. This is who we are.

And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.


The Wife As “Helper” – A Handy Chart

The Wife As "Helper" - A Handy Chart | RachelShubin.com

Which set of arrows describes your marriage? Which set do you think God put forth in Genesis 1 & 2?

Which side of the chart describes how you think the relationship between husbands and wives should work (or describes your relationship with your own spouse)? Does a wife primarily serve God by helping her husband with his God-appointed tasks or does she serve God by doubling the manpower for dominion work in general? These often overlap but frequently a wife feels called toward something that doesn’t directly help her husband. What then? Here are a couple things to consider:


Genesis 2:18 (NKJV)
18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”


All the animals had gendered counterparts, male and female, but Adam did not. He was alone. So God knocked him out, pulled him apart, and made him a female counterpart out of his bodily stuff. She was equal to himself because she came from himself. This parity is reflected in the dominion mandate itself:


Genesis 1:26-28
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”


Dominion over the whole earth was given not just to Adam, but to both Adam and Eve. The work of filling and subduing it was given to both, and both are created in God’s image. There is no role or hierarchy distinction here whatsoever.


Comparable in Gen. 2:18
Going back to Gen. 2:18, what about that word “comparable” or “suitable” as it is frequently translated? What does that mean? Here’s what Strong’s has to say:


5048. neged
neged: in front of, in sight of, opposite to

Original Word: נֶ֫גֶד
Part of Speech: substantive; adverb; preposition; adverb; preposition
Transliteration: neged
Phonetic Spelling: (neh’-ghed)
Short Definition: before


And here is the Brown-David-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon definition:

2 With prepositions:

a. כְּנֶגֶדaccording to what is in front of =corresponding to, Genesis 2:18 I will make himעֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֺ a help corresponding to him i.e. equal and adequate to himself, Genesis 2:20 among the animals there was no עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֺ. **Note that in Late Hebrew מכנגד = in front of, Ber 4:5; 9:5; Ab 2:10, מכנגד פני Git 7:7 and elsewhere.

I’d put in all the references, but there are 150+ and most of them are used as prepositions to denote location (e.g. “in front of the mountain”). Personally, I like the way the King James translates it, “I will make him an help meet for him,” but since no one uses the word “meet” this way anymore, modern readers tend to hear it as “help mate” which implies the wife’s purpose is to help her mate. What “meet” actually means here is closer to “perfectly fitted” or “apt.” It is an adjective describing the type of help she provides, not a noun. Eve is Adam’s counterpart, his equal, and is perfectly suited to fill and subdue the earth with him so that he won’t have to do it alone (the filling part would be tough to do alone anyway).

Helper in Gen. 2:18
What about the word “helper”? Hehe. I looked up every instance where the Hebrew word is used in the Old Testament, and it does not mean “head sock darner and diaper changer.” Neither of those things are bad, of course. Both are necessary, and if that’s what you feel called to do, you should definitely do it  with gusto (well, darning may not be necessary, but buying new socks occasionally is good). However, the word “helper” in Genesis 2:18 oddly carries no connotation of domestic help.

The most common usage of the Hebrew word is of a strong force coming to someone’s aid in battle. Often the helper who is coming to deliver someone out of trouble is the Lord himself. That’s the kind of helper God designed Eve to be. Not only a passive encouragement or support personnel, but an active participant and help in the real work of life. Adam and Eve were both designed to image God. Want to see the research? I have it posted here: A Suitable Helper

Why Was Eve Created?
The real question was what was Adam’s problem? Was his problem that the job was so big that he needed an assistant? The job was and is huge, but that’s not what Genesis 2:18 says was problem. Adam’s problem was that he was alone. God, being a Trinity, knew the value of equal companionship. The animals weren’t going to cut it; they weren’t equals. So God made Adam a counterpart.

Did he make her out of dirt? Nope. Adam couldn’t claim she was made of different dirt from his and therefore completely other from him. Did he make her from his feet? Nope. He couldn’t claim he was over her. Did he make her from his head? Nope. She couldn’t claim she was over him. God made Eve from Adam’s side (not just a rib, by the way), the spot that houses almost all the important guts and interior workings of the body, the softest part, the very center. Eve was part of his very body, bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, the only instance of human asexual reproduction in history. This is the rending that marriage re-unites. This is the fit help. One becomes two; two become one.

~ Rachel

P.S. If you are a happy complementarian in a good marriage, then more power to you. I think there is room in the Bible and in Christendom for both positions, and I admire many couples of both types. If this post has completely confused you or you are wondering how that fits with Ephesians 5, I have a three part (so far) series on that herehere, and here. If you are curious about egalitarianism and how that can possibly be Biblical, please check out my friend Marg’s excellent post here.


Response to a Trapped Wife

Daughter, Mother, Sister, Friend – How would you respond to one of them if they came to you for help? (Photo by The Guigo .en, http://bit.ly/LicenseCC)

Doug Wilson recently posted a second article in his Open Letter series, this time to a trapped wife. I’m not going to repost the entire thing here, but I did have a few thoughts on his post. Here is his original article: Open Letter to a Trapped Wife; and here is my response:

Continue Reading


Modesty & Bikini Motivation

Bikini Motivation

This woman is out to seduce! Oh wait, no. She’s just drinking soda at the beach, minding her own business…

A month or so ago, I got into a conversation on another blog with a woman I’ve never met. Since summer is coming up, naturally the topic was modesty and bikinis. She hadn’t worn one since her honeymoon, would never let her daughters wear one, would be kindly encouraging others to do the same, and said that the real issue is the motivations of our own hearts for why we would want to wear a bikini (that part I agree with!). Her comment closed by saying that she had hoped she had provided a Biblical perspective instead of just an emotional one. Here was my response, lightly edited for clarity:



I’m glad that you don’t want to be the modesty police. Good goal! I think you’re right; we do all draw the line as to what we see as modest or immodest somewhere, and we each do draw it in different places. But the rest of your comment puzzled me very much.

You said that the only time you wore a bikini was on your honeymoon and that you don’t wear them now or let your daughters. All good. Your actions match your views, and you are raising your kids the way you believe, as you should. But you also mention that “we” need to be more concerned with the motivations of our own hearts; however, just before that you say “you” will be kindly encouraging other women who are not you or your daughters to not wear bikinis. That is attributing the motivations of *your* heart to other people’s behavior and asking them to change *their* behavior based on *your* heart. Then you wonder about possible motivations for wanting to wear a bikini and whether or not is because one wants to feel sexy/garner attention.

Let me illustrate the point that not everyone’s motivations are the same. I will be forty years old next month and have six children. I am fairly small-ish, but my stomach has suffered rather a lot of wear and tear over the years. So, do I wear a bikini to attract attention? Not so much. I bought my first bikini in nineteen years last summer, and I wear it because despite the non-20 year old body, I like it. It’s cute and far more comfortable than my one-piece (pulling up a wet lycra swimsuit over your stomach after going to that bathroom anyone? Kind of like wrestling on a skin-tight slug shirt). Plus, it makes me feel unexpectedly pretty when I wear it. Is feeling sexy a bad thing? Is it necessarily tied to wanting attention? I think the answer to both of those is “no.”

I feel pretty or sexy regardless of whether or not someone else is around to see me. The human body is designed to feel sexy sometimes as it is designed to feel many other things, and feeling sexy isn’t always directly related to bedroom time. I tend to feel that way when I succeed at something and feel confident, when I do more than six pushups and feel strong, when I stand in the back doorway to look out at the woods and feel the breeze around me, and of course when my husband nuzzles the back of my neck when I’m cooking. None of those are related to clothes and none of them are related to garnering attention since almost all of those situations occur when I’m alone except for the last one.

Clothes can and do also make me feel sexy, but for me usually (but not always) it’s in reverse. I feel sexy first, and then the clothes I choose reflect that. If I feel confident yet relaxed and have an opportunity to snazz up, on me that looks like pencil skirts with 4″ heels that look slightly like I’m a refugee from the 1940′s. Why do I like that? Beats me. But I reeeeeeally, really do.

When I feel confident enough to wear something I like yet relaxed enough to not care if other people don’t like it, I wear my bikini. Because I like it. Because it reminds me that a little belly flab will probably not spark the apocalypse and I just need to get over myself. Because it reminds me that that belly birthed six wonderful children, and that is a very small personal cost for a gift of such massive return. Because it reminds me that imperfection is ok and to let go of the small things that I want to hold on tightly to and assign far more importance to than they should have. Because when I mentioned to my wonderful, beautiful husband last year that I was thinking about getting a bikini, his response was, “I don’t know why you didn’t do that years ago” and then when I actually got one he smiled like he did when we were young and said I should wear it all the time. (This then raises the question: should I defer to my own husband’s desires or yours?)

So, does that answer your question as to motivations? If you are concerned that in your own heart, your motivation for wanting to wear a bikini might be that you just want to attract gobs of attention, that is a valid reason to not wear one. On top of that, you said your husband doesn’t want you to, and that’s a great reason as well. But those are, as you said you were concerned with at the start of your comment, matters of your own heart and your own conscience and your own family dynamics. My heart and conscience and family dynamics vary from yours, and many other peoples’ undoubtedly vary from both yours and mine. Those things are not across-the-board universals.

Speaking of universals, you ask at the beginning of your comment if we can ever decide something is immodest and then at the end of your comment mention that you wanted to bring some Biblical perspective. That too is a worthy goal, and as Christians we should be doing that in all areas of life.

Last summer after I posted an article about porn on Facebook, the conversation resulted in 80 comments mostly about modesty and what the Bible has to say about it (answer: surprisingly not as much as one would think). I think pretty much all relevant verses were covered, and the discussion was fascinating (and also very time-consuming and thorough enough that I have no wish to post all the Biblical arguments again here). If you have a wad of time to spend reading and are interested, you can see the whole thing here: Porn/Modesty Facebook Discussion.

The takeaways that I found most interesting from all that were that a) the Bible says very little and nearly nothing specific about clothing sizes or lengths or anything, and  b) the vast majority (if not all) of the references to modesty in the Bible relate to behavior and/or the interior workings of the heart as opposed to the clothes one is wearing. The other striking point was that even among a group of Christians mainly from my own denomination, there were many opinions on modesty and how to define it and what the Bible said or implied about it. Every single one of the people who commented is someone I know personally and like very much. All of them, every one, are Godly men and women who I respect very much, yet we disagree to some extent or another on how it all plays out.

One last note on something that would not have occurred to me at all had I not started wearing a bikini. Having heard for most of my life that wearing a bikini would be a huge temptation for the men around me (or something) and might be a problem for them, I was immeasurably surprised when I started wearing one to the river last year. You want to know who was bothered? Christian friends who weren’t with me and have never seen me in a bikini (mostly women but not all). You want to know who cared among the people who were at the actual river and saw me in my bikini? No one. Nobody cared. Half of them were wearing bikinis too. No one was turning into a raging lust ball or assuming I was out to steal their husband. It was a complete non-event, which was perfect since I wasn’t trying to attract attention anyway. I just sat on the rocks and watched the kids play, which was what we had actually gone there to do. The sun was warm, the water was sparkly, and I was thankful for a relaxing afternoon.

Anyway, that’s the really long way of saying I liked your comment and it’s always nice to talk to someone who is trying to think about things from a Godly perspective. May your summer be filled with sunshine and laughter.



~ Rachel


Reponse to a Reviling Husband

Response to a Reviling Husband | RachelShubin.com

This is not a “marriage problem.” In Christian parlance, this is called “reviling.” (Photo by The Lamp, http://bit.ly/LicenseCC)

Last weekend Doug Wilson posted an excellent piece on his blog entitled “An Open Letter to an Angry Husband.” For some reason this topic seems to cause all kinds confusion on what constitutes an appropriate Biblical response, which I think is because so many people struggle to define it. Continue Reading


Duggar Dissection

Duggar Dissection | RachelShubin.com

This is not a “marriage problem.” In Christian parlance, this is called “reviling.” (Photo by The Lamp, http://bit.ly/LicenseCC)

I didn’t want to post on this because I don’t really want to read about it or think about it. After Gothard and Phillips and everything else, I am starting to feel a whiplash effect. Nevertheless, I have been thinking about it and what I’ve been thinking about primarily isn’t the specifics of the case or how many times Josh Duggar referenced himself in his apology statement or what the police report said. What has interested me is the underpinnings, the dynamics. From his case particularly, I think “How common is this in family situations?” and “How do I know what to look for and/or how to prevent such things in our own family?” and “Where is the line between stupid kid and permanent pedophile?”  Continue Reading


Website Recommendation: New Life

Been researching a new post for later this week and came across an interesting site I wanted to pass along. New Life has a bunch of excellent articles on equality and gender issues, and at the bottom of this post, I will post links to some of the articles I found most interesting. If either of these topics are of interest to you, you’ll want to spend some time reading.

Also, on the right sidebar there are now sections for links to external sites with interesting articles/information so that they are easy to find and organized together.

Here are a few of the articles I liked:

I think that’s it for today. If you know someone who is struggling with or interested in these things, please feel free to pass this along. Also, I’ve changed the comment settings so that you can leave comments anonymously if you would like to.



Ephesians 5, Part 3: The Mystery of One Flesh

In the last post we talked about what Paul means when he compares the unified nature of Christ and the church to a person’s head and body. So far this comparison holds up consistently, and that head/body metaphorical language wraps up with verse 30.

Then Paul puts in a reference to Genesis (actually, that one still refers to the body but this time relates it to marriage instead of the church) and a cryptic statement about how incomprehensible this all seems, but he seems to imply that we should be able to get his coded message since he explicitly tells us that he’s talking about Christ and the church. This got me puzzling, which is what happens when I’m breathing. Here’s the whole passage again.

Ephesians 5:21-33 (NIV)

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—

30 for we are members of his body.

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Okay Paul, what is this mysterious mystery you’re talking about? Help me out here. Guess what? Paul does actually help out here. Ephesians is a letter written to the church in Ephesus, and we’ve been looking at chapter 5, right? I searched for other places that the word translated “mystery” is used and was surprised to discover that Paul uses it five times in the same letter before he even gets to Chapter 5. Here they are:

Ephesians 1:7-10

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight

making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

More unity. Here’s the next one.

Ephesians 3:1-12

1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles

2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,

how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.

4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,

5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 

and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 

10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,

12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

What was the mystery? Verses six and eight spell it out: we are members of the same body, partakers of the unsearchable riches of Christ, and that Gentiles are fellow heirs,. The mystery is that the church is one with Christ. Oh look! That verse has body metaphor in there too. How did I miss that one?

Last one:

Colossians 1:24-27

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 

25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,

26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.

27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

This one wraps up all the components we find in Ephesians 5: the church is Christ’s body (including the Gentiles) and Christ is in us. Again, the overriding image is one of unity.

And now, we get to my favorite verse in the whole passage: Ephesians 5:31. For years I couldn’t figure out why this verse was in here. If the whole point of this section were about how the husband was the head of his wife and how the wife’s duty was to obey what he asks unless he asks her to do something illegal or explicitly sinful, then why would verse 31 be in here? How is the one flesh mentioned in the verse 31 a picture of authority? Here is the passage from Genesis that Paul quotes:

Genesis 2:20b-25

20b but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him.

21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh;

22 and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called Woman,

because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.

25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

If Paul is talking about unity, the inclusion of this reference makes sense. It’s in here because it is the perfect summation of what Paul is saying. When Eve was divided from Adam’s flesh, he lost part of himself. The marriage sacrament knits back together as one flesh the two pieces that were split, just like a head and body are two separate parts united in one flesh, and just like Christ and the church are united into one flesh through Christ’s death and resurrection which we commemorate with the sacrament of communion. This is the purpose of marriage. This is the point of the Ephesians 5 passage. This is the profound mystery.



Ephesians 5, Part 2: The Head and the Body

When people suck out verses 22-24 from Ephesians 5:21-33, they tend to concentrate on the “head” part. In isolation, we apply our American idiom of head to the passage and see things like “CEO” or “head of state” which both imply ruling. When you look at those verses with the full passage, it looks less like that and far more like Paul is using pretty oblique language to say what he’s saying. He says the relationship between husbands and wives is like the relationship between Christ and the Church and both are like the relationship between the head… and the body. Let’s look at the text again.

Ephesians 5:21-33 (NIV)


21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—

30 for we are members of his body.

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

The first thing that jumps out at me here is that Paul talks far more about how the wife is like the husband’s own body and all the things that he is supposed to do to care for her, his body, than it does about how the husband is like the wife’s own head. In fact, Paul spends three verses talking directly to wives and seven speaking directly to husbands. Most of the commentaries I’ve read seem to argue about the meaning of “head,” which is used twice here, and whether or not it means “authority” or “source.” Paul isn’t using “head” here as a secondary metaphor for authority or for source. Paul isn’t comparing a husband to a head which symbolizes authority. Otherwise verses 25-30 would have to be comparing the wife to a body as a symbol for submission, which I’ve never heard anyone claim. He’s comparing a marriage to an actual head (the husband) that is an integral part of an equally necessary body (the wife). Paul says specifically in verses Eph. 5:23&29&32 that this comparison between man & wife and Christ & the church somehow relates to how a head & body operate.

What the holy hand grenades does that mean? When I think of my own head and body, I tend to think of them as rather inextricably connected. I’d prefer to keep my body in good working order, thank you. My heart, lungs, bladder, spine, legs? Yes, I’d like those to all remain properly functional. That would be nice. At the same time, my head seems equally necessary to my body. I need it for food stuffs and vision and speech and hearing. Rather important too.

How about thought? That’s pretty important and comes from the head, right? Isn’t Paul implying that husbands should be doing the thinky bits? Well… not really.  While we now know that thinking comes from the brain, the anatomy information at the time was based on Aristotle who thought that the heart, not the head, controlled the mind. Paul adheres to this idea in several places like the ones below.

Rom. 1:21 …but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…

Rom. 2:15 …the law written in their hearts…

Rom. 10:9&10 …it is with your heart you believe…

I Cor. 2:9 …no heart has conceived God’s plans…

I Cor. 7:37 …he who has decided in his own hear…

Eph. 1:18 …may the eyes of your heart be enlightened to know…

Nowhere does he associate the mind with the head. So, he’s not talking about the husbands being the decision-makers either. All of this implies a profound unity since you can’t lop off the body without killing the head, and you can’t lop off the head without killing the body. That’s all grand when talking about a human body, but how does that work with Christ and the church? Surely Christ can survive without us (not so much in reverse though), right? Why would Paul use the body metaphor for Christ and the church? To answer this question, we need to look around and see if he uses body-related imagery in relation to Christ and the church anywhere else and see if it was more obvious what he was talking about there. Turns out, he does!

I Corinthians 12:15-27

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.

16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.

17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?

20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,

24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,

25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 

Did you catch that? We are Christ’s body. We are his hands and feet. We are one with and in Christ. While the subheadings in your Bible usually tag the Ephesians passage as being about submission in marriage, they almost always tag this section in I Corinthians as being about unity even though it shares very similar language.

Romans 12:3-7

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,

5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;

7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;

8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

I couldn’t even figure out what to highlight on this passage without ending up highlighting the entire thing. First, verses 4 and 5 reiterate again that we form one body in Christ just like each component of our personal body combines to form one being. Same thought as the head & body idea in Ephesians 5. Second, verse 3 specifically speaks against hierarchical thinking. Then verses 6-8 go through multiple giftings that God blesses members of the body with – prophesy, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, showing mercy – and tells each member to do these things as grace is given to us.

Paul gives no indication that these giftings are given on any sort of gender or marital role basis. Nothing about wives can’t teach their husbands or women can’t lead or men shouldn’t encourage women or husbands can’t serve their wives. (Don’t get all excited; I’m sure some of those specifics will come up when I finally get around to writing about Timothy). The overriding impression from this passage is unity of the body of Christ with Christ, and language follows the same body-metaphor language as the Ephesians 5 passage.

And now, a really long one. Sorry.

Colossians 2:8-19

8 See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 

10 and you have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 

11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ;

12 and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 

14 having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

15 He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him.

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath.

17 These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,

19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

This passage seems even stronger than the last one. Here Paul says in verse 10 that we have come to fullness of life in Him with the strong implication that since He is the head of all rule and authority, we are joint heirs in this since we are part of him. Verse 11 makes us the heirs of his circumcision. Verse 12 buries us in baptism and raises us from the dead because we are one with Christ and He was raised from the dead. Verse 13 reiterates points out a second time that we are alive and forgiven because we are one with Christ, and He lives. Then verse 19 wraps up that we are Christ’s body and what happens when that bond between head and body begins to dissolve.

Again, this entire passage is a picture of our unity with Christ. Does Christ rule the church? Of course. But is that the aspect of the church’s relationship with Christ that Paul is trying to get across here through use of the head/body metaphor? It would seem not. One last point for now, and that is that this idea is reflected even in communion:

I Corinthians 10:16,17

16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?

17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

We are one body with Christ, and this is reflected in both of the sacraments we do in church today: baptism in Colossians 2:12 and communion in I Corinthians 10:16&17. When we see head/body language in relation to Christ and the church, what we are supposed to be reminded of and think of is oneness to the point where we are joined together as a unified whole. How does that work? Doesn’t that seem kind of mysterious? Oddly, going back to the Ephesians 5 passage, Paul even refers to exactly the same thing in Ephesians 5:32. What could he be talking about? Conveniently, he tells us elsewhere exactly what that mystery of Christ and the church is, and that will be the subject of the next post.


Ephesians 5, Part 1: vs. 21 & 22

When people talk about submission, Ephesians 5:22-24 comes up quite regularly as a proof text for the idea of the marriage relationship being primarily hierarchical in form. Because everyone covers vs. 22-24 and the standard interpretation of that colors the entire rest of the passage, I am not going to discuss that until the last post. Several other pieces of the passage give a much different but consistent view of what Paul is talking about. This post is just a short preface in which we are going to talk very briefly about Greek.

You know how English has that handy punctuation and capitalization to tell you where thoughts and sentences begin and end? Greek doesn’t have that. It has one option for writing letters (not two, uppercase and lowercase, like we do) and no punctuation at all, so everything runs together and you have to figure out where the thoughts start and end based on the tenses and cases of the words themselves. For the most part, this seems to work ok. Sometimes thought, not so much. Here is the full passage in the NIV. In a minute we’ll look at the first two verses in other translations.

Ephesians 5:21-33 (NIV)

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—

30 for we are members of his body.

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

See how that looked like two separate commands? 1) Submit to one another. 2) Wives, submit to your husbands. Now look at the ESV:

Ephesians 5:21-22 (ESV)

21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

While the NIV puts verse 21 as its own sentence, the ESV places it as the end of the sentence begun in verse 18 like this:

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The KJV puts it back as its own sentence like this:

Ephesians 5:21-22 (KJV)

21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

But by the time we get to NKJV, it is back as part of the previous sentence (Ephesians 5:18-21 NKJV)

Ephesians 5:21-22 (NKJV)

21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

The NASB does the same.

Ephesians 5:21-22 (NASB)

21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands,as to the Lord.

But the RSV has it back as its own sentence again.

Ephesians 5:21-22 (RSV)

21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.

Is that enough redundancy for today? Who cares which way it is translated and why does it matter? Well, I need to show you one more thing, and then you’ll be able to see very clearly why it matters. If you translate verse 21 as its own sentence, it looks very much like Christians are all to be subject to one another (with no gender distinctions) and that however you translate that as applying to everyone what it also must mean regarding what is required of wives. Since it’s a little on the fuzzy side even between the various English translations, here it is in the Greek interlinear. Remember that Biblical (koine) Greek didn’t use capitalization or punctuation, so wherever you see that, it has been added in.



So, the direct translation of those two verses looks like this:

21 submitting yourselves to one another in reverence of Christ

22 wives to the own husbands as to the lord

Do you notice anything weird about verse 22? Such as… no verb? Where did “submit” go? Well, it’s not there. It’s in verse 21.

Verse 22 about wives is a subordinate clause to verse 21 (which doesn’t really come out in any of the translations) and actually borrows the verb from there. Whatever submit means for Christians submitting to each other is what it means for wives. So, what does it mean? Ahhh, that’s the million dollar question and the one I’m going to get to last (sorry).

Next up: The Head and the Body