“Wives submit to your husbands…”

Fun fact about greek. It has a word for “submit to the authority of”, that word being hupakouo. It also has a word for “fall into formation with”, that word being hupotasso. The verse I quoted in the title is that second word, hupotasso.

David and I aren’t complimentareans, or at least we don’t subscribe to the all of the modern day baggage that goes along with that label. But we very much look like it in terms of how we act towards one another and our attitudes, and I think it has as much to do with our faith as it has to do with our personalities. I do follow David and he does sacrifice for me, and it makes for a strong dynamic when dealing with problems and trials.

If you’re not in the mood for a churchy post, you’ve probably already figured out that that’s what today’s post is going to be about. And if you’re hovering your mouse over the ‘close window’ button I don’t judge you at all, haha. But if you’re interested I’d like to take just a second to look at two passages from the Bible in a hope to educate people about what the Bible does and does not say about gender and authority and marriage.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:21-33)

I can’t think of a way to phrase this delicately so I’ll just be blunt. If that isn’t pushing a balanced, equal relationship then I’d like to see what is. I could put up that first line as my entire argument, “submit to one another”, and the rest of the passage and the chapter reinforce the idea ten different ways. Women are not servents, and the Bible doesn’t say that they are. What it does say is that in each relationship there is a captain and a first mate, and that both must sacrifice for the other in equal measure. Once a couple is married you can’t have one without the other, they are one flesh, and the wife is just as important to the success of the husband as the husband is important to the success of the wife (or wife/wife, husband/husband, you get the point).

In the passage I just showed the greek word being used for submit is hupotasso, to fall into formation with. In this next passage the word for submit/obey being used is hupakouo, submit to the authority of, and I think seeing that word in its proper context will help illuminate the difference between submitting in a marriage and submitting to someone above you.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

When talking about husband and wives and submission, I think most people understand it to mean hupakouo and get, rightfully, offended. They see it as condescending and cruel, that it makes the woman out to be inferior to the man. Reading it that way makes women into children and men into their disciplinarians. Some people even read it that way and shape their life around it, with the men lording over the women like tyrants. That’s not Godly, and it’s not Biblical. A wife is to submit to her husband (and a husband to his wife) in the way that a captain and first mate put their trust and their lives in one another’s hands every time they leave port.

Source for my greek and my example verses: http://www.christiandomesticdiscipline.com/greekwordstudy.html

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3 thoughts on ““Wives submit to your husbands…”

  1. Why does this verse ALWAYS seem to require, not just an explanation, but a justification? And when did submission become regarded as something unacceptable for women to do?

    Are we not all called to submit?

    • CyraEm says:

      I think it’s good to be able to explain and justify all of scripture. Like Paul says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you” (1 Peter 3:15)

      With this portion in particular though, I think it’s especially important that we examine the meaning and motivations involved because it has been used in the past to justify subjugation of others. Some people have used Paul’s writings here and in Timothy in order to declare women evil or not of God’s creation and so we must be completely clear about what is and is not the correct meaning to derive here.

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