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Authority: Is It Really the Biblical Counterpart to Marital Submission?

Authority: Is It Really the Biblical Counterpart to Marital Submission? | RachelShubin.com

Photo Credit: © George G. Shubin (Rachel’s husband)

The other day my husband George burst into the room with his camera in hand and shooed me out to the neighboring field of tall grass. He’d been wanting try taking a golden hour shot using his umbrella flash modifier for fill light, and twilight shots are always a race against the setting sun.

After seeing the final image (to the left there), my Mom commented about me sneezing the rest of the night; but I’m not allergic to grass, and I’ve been taking meds extra faithfully this summer because pollen counts in our area are terrible and I am allergic to cottonwood. So, what if George had asked me to go stand in front of the cottonwood tree for a picture in May when it’s blowing its cotton? Would I have done it?

The Litmus Test

While this is an extremely mild example, this type of question comes up constantly when I talk to people about complementarian/egalitarian issues. When I say I think the Bible talks about husbands and wives each submitting to and loving one another as opposed to husbands leading and wives submitting, they often present a question like this: “If your husband asked you to do {insert some utterly ridiculous/offensive/painful/horrible/dangerous thing here}, would you do it?” I’m not talking about everyday things on the scale of standing in front of a tree; the hypothetical question always involves  some entirely unreasonable request that the inquirer assumes would get an automatic “no” under any other circumstances. The question is a ringer, a Catch-22, and the intent is to trap me into saying the expected “no” so they can then point out that I’m not for submitting after all, mutual or otherwise.

Love – The True Counterpart to Marital Submission

Here’s the problem. That entire line of reasoning is predicated on the idea that the marital counterpart to submission is oppositional, interlocking authority. When I read, I don’t see that at all. When I look at Ephesians 5:22-24, it talks about the wife submitting to her husband in the way that a body is joined to its head. The usage of “head” throughout the entire passage is as a body part, not an authority. There is a Greek word for authority, but Paul doesn’t use it once in this passage, and when he talks to the wives he never refers to the husband as an authority but as a head. A head to a body.

In the verses immediately following, Ephesians 5:25-31, Paul switches from wives to husbands and talks about the husband loving his wife in the way that a head is joined to its body. Paul never once tells the husband to be the authority either or explains what that should look like. What he does tell the husband to do is to love his wife and what that should look like. When I read this passage and the others like it, what I see is not authority and submission as oppositional forces tied together, but love and submission as cooperative forces tied together. Love, not authority, is the Biblical counterpart to marital submission. When I think about how that would play out in real life, the two start looking extraordinarily close to the same.

Metaphorical Usage

Since the same “submit” word is used elsewhere in the New Testament in relation to governing authorities, many people lump that meaning in with marital passages (Rom. 13:1-6 uses the word for authority, not head, to describe the government) . In Ephesians, three verses are spent on wifely submission while the following seven are spent on husbandly love. Three verses comparing a husband to a body’s head and seven connecting a wife to that head’s body. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about how your physical body should submit better to your head or how your head should love your body better? The overriding image seems to be one of unity, not hierarchy.

This extended metaphor doesn’t show up with passages on governmental structures, nor do those passages have counterpart exhortations in their sections for the government to love its subjects (although the parts of the Bible written to rulers definitely requires that in the forms of  justice and mercy); but Paul does use the same type of body metaphor in I Corinthians 12:15-27 to explain relationships within the church, and it is always recognized as a metaphor for unity there. The teaching of love (not authority) and submission being the operating structure within the body of Christ is everywhere in the New Testament (more on most of this here). With that backdrop in mind, the problem with the “If your husband asked you xxx?” becomes clearer.

Bad Presuppositions

“Would you do xxx?” is the wrong question. Not only is it the wrong question, but it is asked of the wrong person. If a wife comes into the pastor’s office or if she elsewhere complains that her husband is asking her to do things that are not loving toward her, the response should not be to ask her why she isn’t doing them. The question should be put to the husband asking why he would request or require such a thing of her in the first place.

When you see the marriage dichotomy as authority/submission, the “If your husband…” question makes sense because any refusal is a challenge to his perceived authority. When you see the marriage dichotomy as love/submission, the question makes no sense because love would never ask someone to do such things in the first place and it would certainly never require compliance if the question were posed. The questionee is not the problem; the questioner misunderstands both his own duty to love and how beneficial authority works in general and in what situations it applies.

My Answer to the Question

So, if George asked me stand in front of the cottonwood so he could take my picture, would I do it? The first and arguably the most important point is that he wouldn’t ask me to because George loves me. If he did ask me, I would say, “Umm, George, my eyes will swell up and I’ll be sneezing for days if I stand there.” At that point he would say, “Oh! Sorry, I forgot. Let’s do it in the field instead.” If later he still wanted a shot by the tree, he would just find someone else to use for the shot. No power struggle over who is not exercising their authority correctly or who isn’t submitting properly because the issue is not one of authority. It is an issue of love.

 

  • Final note: If George suddenly became other than who he is and insisted upon my standing in front of the allergy tree after I reminded him that it would make me sick, I would tell him “no.” For us, this would be a complete rarety; however, if your spouse (male or female) consistently asks you to do unreasonable things that put you in danger or show blatant disregard for your personhood in mind or body, please consider reading through a screening for abuse and getting help if necessary. 
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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[highlight] “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[/highlight]

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

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

9 [highlight]making known to us the mystery of his will,[/highlight] according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

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

More unity. Here’s the next one.

Ephesians 3:1-12

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

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

3 [highlight]how the mystery was made known to me by revelation,[/highlight] as I have written briefly.

4 When you read this, [highlight]you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, [/highlight]

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.

6 [highlight]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.[/highlight]

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.

8 [highlight]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, [/highlight]

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

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[highlight] I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, [/highlight]

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[highlight] the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.[/highlight]

27 [highlight]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.[/highlight]

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.

 

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Ephesians 5, Part 2: The Head and the Body

Ephesians 5, Part 2 - The Head and the Body | RachelShubin.com

I wish this were a stock photo instead of one I took of something I drive regularly.

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 [highlight]head[/highlight] of the wife as Christ is the [highlight]head[/highlight] of the church, [highlight]his body[/highlight], 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, [highlight]cleansing her by the washing with water[/highlight] through the word,

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

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

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

30 for [highlight]we are members of his body.[/highlight]

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

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 [highlight]Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. [/highlight]

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.

9 [highlight]For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, [/highlight]

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

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

12 [highlight]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.[/highlight]

13 [highlight]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, [/highlight]

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[highlight] 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,[/highlight]

19 [highlight]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.[/highlight]

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.

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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)

[highlight]21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.[/highlight]

[highlight]22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.[/highlight]

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.

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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