Archive for the ‘Word Study (Greek/Hebrew)’ Category

Are you “subject to your husband in EVERYTHING”?
I am!
But I do not SUBMIT to him in EVERYTHING.

Newsflash: You too are “subject to your husband in EVERYTHING”!
Being “subject to” your husband is like being “subject to” gravity. It’s not something you “choose” but a state of being.

The word “submit” implies choice/volition on the part of the “submitter”.
“Subject to” better conveys the grammatical nuance of the Greek PASSIVE voice (of the hupotasso verb used in Ephesians 5:24).

“but even as the assembly is subject to Christ,
so also [are] the wives to their own husbands in everything.” Eph 5:24 (YLT)

For over two decades I twisted myself into a pretzel attempting to practice “SUBMIT to him in EVERYTHING”. Once the newlywed shine wore off (by 5 years) I felt progressively more and more disrespected and by the time we were married 22 years, I was completely miserable in the marriage, I felt trapped like a prisoner in a concentration camp.

Once I realized this passage is not teaching a wifely BEHAVIOR, but describing “the state of being a wife”, what its like in a wife’s skin, THEN I was free to move toward making life in my skin more tolerable by standing up for myself and protecting myself and the children.

Here are two pictures to illustrate the difference. Perhaps this will help.

“SUBMIT in everything” looks like this:

This is WORKS.  It’s like living on a hamster wheel in a cage, always trying to please him never getting anywhere- trapped, imprisoned.  Sometimes he lays the demands on so thick and turns up the speed so fast that you fall down.  This is how I knew that the interpretation “wife, submit in EVERYTHING” cannot possibly be what God meant!  I attempted it and it is physically impossible and emotionally deadening.

Christian wife, I encourage you to get off that hamster wheel! 

Here is what I think God (via Paul) means in Ephesians 5:24 “wives ARE SUBJECT TO their husbands” –>



Depending upon whether the Flower is nourished and cherished,
it will BLOOM
or it will WILT.

And if I am SUBJECT TO a man who is constantly WILTING me by his behavior and refuses to change his WILTING ways, then in this day and age (unlike the peasants of yesteryear), I have the power to choose not to be SUBJECT TO him anymore.

I am thankful that my husband has chosen to change his WILTING ways. Our marriage continues (since Oct 9, 1982) which means I continue to be “SUBJECT to” him.  He has learned to be more sensitive and instead of defending himself and blaming us, he is now open to receiving correction when his harshness has wilted me or one of our Quiver Full (our eight children plus 2 sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law- so far).

If anyone reading this is still on that hamster wheel
striving and straining to “be submissive”, weary and heavy laden,
my heart goes out to you.
I’ve been there.
I understand.
GOD understands! What you are doing is NOT what He meant!
This blog is a gift to you in hope that reading
about the things which God has shown me as I made this journey will give you
a helping hand off the hamster wheel.

Love, Charis


This final post is dedicated to my blogging sisters who can be found in the comments  here.

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If you will go to these links at BLB: Luke 10:17-20 and Eph 5:24 and scroll down, you will see that the form of hupotasso is exactly the same in Luke 17, 20, and Ephesians 5:24.   ὑποτάσσεται=hupotassetai.

If you scroll down further, you will see the   parsing of the verb under “Tense” and all three cases are identified as the PASSIVE voice.  I also checked the interlinear at: www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/Greek_Index.htm
and interlinearbible.org/ephesians/5.htm  They all identify these instances of “subjection” as passive voice where the subject receives the action without volition/will on the part of the subject.  (Contrast with Romans 13:1,5  “ Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.1 … 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.” – for example-  where the hupotasso is middle imperative.  “Voluntary self-instigated yielding” would be an appropriate understanding here.)

Though on the surface it’s a shocking parallel, I think the submission of the devils to the apostles actually provides a great deal of insight as to the nature of the submission of wife to husband. Contra many egalitarians who frame the wifely subjection of Eph. 5:24 as “voluntary, self-instigated yielding”, think about this.  Do these devils have any will in their submission? Do they choose their submission? Can they decide not to submit? No, they are in subjection without any volition/will on their part. Their subjection is not a “command” that they must “obey”; their subjection their state of being, which they cannot resist even if they wanted to.

Likewise, the submission/subjection of the wife in Ephesians 5 as well as in 1 Peter 3 is stated with verbs using the passive voice. This suggests that a wife’s submission/subjection is descriptive rather than prescriptive. Its not a COMMAND, its her state of being which she cannot resist even if she wanted to.

I suggest that the passive voice of hupotasso is evidence that biblical teaching about wifely subjection is not a command to women. Commands are in the imperative. (eg. verse 25 directed to HUSBANDS is in the imperative love-agapete) . Rather this submission is a state of being and a response. Much like a garden passively receives watering, nourishing, cherishing,. The garden is SUBJECT TO the gardener. If tending, nourishing, cherishing, is neglected, the garden wilts and dies.

I suggest that the statement in Ephesians 5:24 should not make wives sweat at all. Rather, husbands should be sweating. She has no power nor control to resist. When she marries, her husband holds her heart in his hands. Will he be harsh and trample her under his feet? crushing her spirit? or will he be like Christ and minister LIFE?

And a husband has a particular power and influence upon a wife that may not go “vice versa” because she is uniquely “subject to” (being harmed by?) him moreso than he to her.  John Gottman observed this in his marriage laboratory (see “Addendum: The Scientific support for “wives are subject“).  This view also makes sense of the instruction to wives that they need to PHOBEO their husbands (Eph 5:33).

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Pearls are formed when a piece of sand irritates an oyster. Over time, one layer after another is deposited upon the sand until it is transformed into something precious and beautiful. I just finished a new paper which draws upon many posts from this blog and is a pearl to me.

Genesis 3:16 and Ephesians 5:24:
A Woman’s Desire, A Man’s Rule, and A Wife’s Submission (pdf)

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Here is a segment of a paper I am in the midst of writing.  My  thesis is that Paul’s statement in Ephesians 5:24 is a repetition of “the facts of life” first reported in Genesis 3:16:

“your [the wife's] desire will be for your husband
and he will rule over you” Genesis 3:16

(God describing to the first woman what marriage will be like for her)

 “wives are subject to their own husbands
in everything” Ephesians 5:24

(Paul describing marriage to the Ephesians)



“wives are subject to their own husbands
in everything” Ephesians 5:24

(Paul describing marriage to the Ephesians)

Paul reiterates the Genesis 3:16 description in Ephesians 5:24.  Paul is not giving the Ephesians a prescription but a description.

We are used to hearing prescription/command in Ephesians 5:24.  Wives “must be submissive”, “let them be subject”, “must submit”, “should be entirely submissive”, “ought to submit”  IN EVERYTHING.

Both complementarians and egalitarians have come up with ways to tap dance around the harsh implications of hearing prescription in Ephesians 5:24 rather than description.  Some complementarians attempt to soften the impact of Ephesians 5:24 by isolating the exercise of wifely submission to occasions of conflict where the husband is said to have “final decision making power”.  Some egalitarians attempt to soften the impact by describing a wife’s submission as a “voluntary, self-instigated yielding”.    However, being “subject in everything” has no limit, no exceptions, nor is it voluntary.   Everything means everything!

So where have I gotten this idea that Ephesians 5:24 is not a prescription/command? It comes from the grammar of the Greek.   In my study of Ephesians 5:24, I discovered that many translations, add extra words which change the grammar.

In various English Bible versions, the words of Ephesians 5:24 are rendered (source):

  • wives should submit” (NIV, NLT, ESV, ) 
  • “wives ought to be [subject to]” (NASB
  • wives must be submissive” (ISV)
  • “wives are under their husbands’ authority in everything.” (GW)
  • “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in every thing. (KJV)
  • “so let the wives be” (AKJV, WBT)
  • “so let the wives also be” (ERV, ASV, WEB
  • married women should be entirely submissive to their husbands. (WNT)
  • And as the church is under Christ’s authority, so let wives be under the rule of their husbands in all things. (Bible in Basic English)

The latter rendition of the Bible in Basic English is noteworthy for how visibly we can see the parallel of Ephesians 5:24 with Genesis 3:16.  However, BiBE and all of the above translations add words and grammar which are not there in the Greek. The KJV at least brackets the added words so we realize they are additions.  If we take out the “let” and “be” from the 6 translations above where they have been added, then they are more accurate.  The grammar of the Greek verb hupotasso, translated “to submit” or “to be subject” is not imperative[i]: it is not a command! The grammar of the Greek verb is passive indicative.[ii]  The following two translations reflect this accurately:

Young’s Literal Translation
“but even as the assembly is subject to Christ, so also are the wives to their own husbands in everything.”

Darby Bible Translation
“But even as the assembly is subjected to the Christ, so also wives to their own husbands in everything.”

WIVES ARE SUBJECT [not "must be submissive", not "let them be subject", not "must submit", not "should be entirely submissive", not "ought to submit" ] IN EVERYTHING.

So, what does this mean?

You ARE SUBJECT to your husband IN EVERYTHING like you are subject to gravity. Though you made a choice to marry him, you have neither control nor volition regarding your state of subjection; it’s a state of being.

The context of Ephesians 5 speaks of a HEAD and a BODY which metaphor is a remarkable fit with a passive voice understanding of “is subject” in Ephesians 5:24.  The body “is subject” to the head, but there is neither volition nor even consciousness involved on the part of the body, nor is there agency involved on the part of the head.  It is a description of a state of being, not a command for a certain behavior.  Thus the head/body metaphor is a perfect illustration and object lesson of connectedness and “being subject” in the passive voice. Contextually, Ephesians 5:24 is a continuation of the thought started in Ephesians 5:21 and clarifies the nature and extent of the hupotasso Paul has in mind.  Furthermore, Paul’s two uses of hupotasso in this context (21 and 24) are a sandwich around his introduction of the head/body metaphor (23).  This head/body metaphor is key to understanding Paul’s intent.  In the immediate context of Ephesians 5, Paul maps the husband to the head and the wife to the body and refers to the couple thus organically connected as “one flesh” which harks back to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:24).

For a Christian wife, being “subject to her husband in everything” may or may not resemble her experience being “subject to Christ in everything” depending on how much her husband reflects Christlikeness in the manner in which he treats her (which is the thrust of Paul’s teaching directed to husbands in Ephesians 5).

You might argue that in this sense the husband is subject to the wife too and I would agree with you and point to Ephesians 5:21.  However, Ephesians 5:24 clarifies that a wife has a unique and greater vulnerability to her husband which extends to EVERYTHING with  no “vice versa” claim in scripture regarding the husband.

Once a wife says “I do” (any wife in any culture of any religion, past, present, and future), she becomes vulnerable to her husband in a way which she is to no other person on earth.  The anatomy is a picture of this.  The wife opens herself up to receive from her husband, and she will tend to internalize harsh things that he says!   (See “Men and Women are Different” #3) That is why Paul repeats 5 times in Ephesians 5 employing imperative grammar (“command” verbs) that a husband needs to AGAPE/LOVE his wife.


[i] Imperative is a  Greek verb “mood” which is identified by its distinctive form.  “The imperative mood is a command or instruction given to the hearer, charging the hearer to carry out or perform a certain action.”  The hupotasso (submit) verb of Ephesians 5:24 is NOT in the imperative, although many English translations (mistakenly) add imperative language. Greek verbs change form based upon the subject of the verb and the kind of action indicated.  There are five basic parts (or aspects) that are clearly defined or indicated by every Greek verb form: Person, Number, Tense, Voice, and Mood. (ntgreek.org).  The aspects relevant to my thesis are voice and mood.

[ii] You can verify the passive indicative parsing for yourself by looking above the hupotasso verb in Ephesians 5:24 at http://interlinearbible.org/ephesians/5.htm.  Guidelines for understanding the implications of voice and mood can be found at http://ntgreek.org/  and  Wallace and Mounce.  Greek Grammar. “Passive Voice”.  Web. 5 July 2011.

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Another new translation errs in imposing an imperative where there is none.  :( (This post quotes a list of translations which perpetrate this error as well as a handful with more accurate renderings.)

Wives and Husbands
22Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of his wife as the Messiah is the head of the church. It is he who is the Savior of the body. 24Indeed, just as the church is submissive to the Messiah, so wives must be submissive to their husbands in everything. ISV

Neither Ephesians 5:22 nor 5:24 are grammatical imperative in the Greek. The fact is, they are both parsed passive.  (You can verify this for yourself at http://interlinearbible.org/ephesians/5.htm and above the hupotasso verb you will find 21–>   V-PPP-NPM 24–> V-PPI-3S.)

These details of the grammar which Paul/God chose to use are providential and should not be ignored in translation!

The context of Ephesians 5 speaks of a HEAD and a BODY which metaphor is a remarkable fit with a passive voice understanding of “is subject” in Ephesians 5:24. The body “is subject” to the head, but there is no volition involved on the part of the body, nor is there agency involved on the part of the head. It is a description of a state of being, not a command for a certain behavior. Thus the head/body metaphor is a perfect illustration and object lesson of connectedness and “being subject” in the passive voice.

Paul makes a switch in the grammatical voice of the participles from the active voice for “speaking”, “singing”, “making melody”, and “giving thanks” to the passive voice for “being subject” (read more). Contextually, Ephesians 5:24 is a continuation of the thought started in Ephesians 5:21 and clarifies the nature and extent of the hupotasso Paul has in mind. Furthermore, Paul’s two uses of hupotasso in this context (21 and 24) are a sandwich around his introduction of the head/body metaphor (23). This head/body metaphor is key to understanding Paul’s intent. In the immediate context of Ephesians 5, Paul maps the husband to the head and the wife to the body and refers to the couple thus organically connected as “one flesh”.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul maps the church to a body and speaks of the interdependence of the members of that body.

But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And
the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”;
nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” .
. . . And if one member suffers, all the members suffer
with it; or if one member is honored, all the members
rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and
members individually. (1 Cor 12: 20-21, 26-27 NKJV)

Though the Greek word hupotasso is not used in the above passage from 1 Cor. 12, the concept of the organic connection between members of one body IS used. So the above passage is an excellent illustration of what Paul means when he refers to members of the body of Christ “being in subjection” to one another. They are in subjection to one another like the members of a human body are in subjection to one another. If part of me is in a hurting or weakened condition, then other parts of my body are affected. Imagine the effect of a toothache or a lame leg.

(For full citations, see: “Wives are Subject” )

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This morning, the sermon was on Ephesians 5:21-33, and it was the same old, same old message which was bondage to me for 22 years of our 28+ year marriage.  Here is some of a letter I wrote to my Pastor which I thought my readers might find helpful.  I am going to go ahead and put in links since I invited the Pastor to visit.  Many of the links go to titus2keeper an organized collection of my studies.

Dear Pastor,

About your sermon, I am unapologetically egalitarian and believe that the husband does not have any unique authority not possessed in equal measure by the wife.  “Head” does not mean boss/master/ruler.  It’s an intimacy metaphor.  Also you used the word “obey” several times of the wife’s obligation in marriage.  The Bible nowhere teaches that a wife needs to “obey” her husband.  (If you think you have verses which prove otherwise, I have researched all of them: see “Obey?” and “even as Sara obeyed Abraham” for example)  A marriage is not a parent child relationship.  I am thankful that I could sit through your sermon without any pain or anxiety as the teaching represented by your sermon was bondage to me for so many years.  I just let it go in one ear and out the other and prayed for those in the church who may be tempted to embrace it (and who will be crushed by it and wind up with an abusive master/slave marriage instead of a friendship and partnership).

I would like to point out to you (which you can read further on my blog if you like) that Sapphira “obeyed” Ananias instead of being “meet help”/ezer (with disastrous consequences for both), Abigail did not obey Nabal (whose name means “fool”) but defied him thus saving her family and household from death, Esther defied her husband the king in several of his decrees with God’s blessing and great fruit and salvation for many.  You said “honor” implies that the one honored has authority. I Pet 3:7 tells husband to honor their wives.  1 Tim 5:14 says that the wife is to be the oikedespoteo (ruler of the household) and there is nowhere in scripture that says the husband is ruler of the household with the exception of pagan Xerxes proclamation in Esther 1:22 (see Ruler?).  I take my responsibility seriously and will no longer subject my household to a man who is consumed with his flesh, neglectful, and abusive.

Also out of Ephesians 5,  “the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience”.  I think this wrath of God will come upon them in this life no matter whether they said a sinner’s prayer and attend church religiously. In the case of my husband, a portion of God’s wrath may come in the form of divorce if he chooses to take up his prodigal ways once again.

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”  Eph 5:6

Because of what things?

“For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” Eph 5:5



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In an interesting comment on another post, Waneta Dawn asked “would Paul tell wives to “police” their Christian husbands & hold them accountable? Is that supported with other scripture?”

Holding a husband accountable is not a conscious “policing”; its her surrender to GOD to use her in her Titus 2 capacity- chaste, pure, subject, and friendship love. A wife operating as the Titus 2 woman and help meet/ezer GOD intended WILL be used by God as a source of accountability for her husband.

At one point when my husband was in the grip of a stronghold to lust and porn, I prayed that God would keep me chaste- per Titus 2 and 1 Peter 3- and I anointed the marriage bed with oil. For a couple weeks, my husband was struck with impotence whenever he came near me. He could jerk off to porn, but could not have normal marital relations. I felt so cherished and protected by God, and it scared him so much that he repented from the porn use.

Effective life-saving wifery takes courage to stand up for what is right.   Esther and Abigail are biblical women who stood up against injustice on the part of their husbands.  And Sapphira is a biblical woman who didn’t stand up to her husband but agreed with him unto death.

I think the “wife submit salad” (as Waneta put it) robs husbands of their God given help and reduces wives to servants instead of friends (contra Jesus’ role model in John 15).  A good wife should be a powerful life-saving friend.  A husband may interpret her standing up to him and holding him accountable as “policing”.  His error is in viewing his God given help meet as his enemy instead of  his friend.

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There are very few real life examples of married couples in the NT.  Among them are Ananias and Sapphira.  You can read the account of them from Acts 5 here.

Why did Sapphira follow her husband in death?  The passage explains that this happened because they “agreed together“ (Acts 5:9).  The Greek word there is derived from, sumphóneó with root words  sun- together and phóné -voice.  Strong’s concordance defines sumphoneo as “to call out with, to be in harmony, generally to agree”.  Note how the word resembles our English word “symphony”.

Ananias and Sapphira were harmonious; agreeable. But what did they agree to do? They agreed to to lie to the Holy Ghost (vs 3); to tempt the Spirit of the Lord (vs. 9).  The definition of “to tempt” provided here is “to challenge”.  They agree to lie to the Holy Spirit and to challenge the Holy Spirit.

Notice the repetition word for word of the birth of great fear, following the death of Ananias, and again following the death of Sapphira:

and came fear great Acts 5:5
καὶ ἐγένετο φόβος μέγας
kai egeneto phobos megas.

and came fear great Acts 5:11
καὶ ἐγένετο φόβος μέγας
kai egeneto phobos megas.

I am struck by the equality of responsibility, and of consequences.  I am also struck by the root cause of their death- an absence of appropriate FEAR!

Could a lack of appropriate FEAR be at the root of the death of marriages?

Upon some word study of the teaching on marriage in  Ephesians 5, I realized that within marriage,  PHOBEO/fear is a responsibility expressly  placed upon the wife:

Eph 5:33 “wife that she fear [her] husband”

Bible translations are just that: translations.  The God breathed Word was originally given in Greek and Hebrew.   I believe the above rendition of Ephesians 5:33 (from the interlinear at biblos.com) is an honest translation which takes the God breathed Greek word at face value.

Is it comfortable?  Does it fit the tradition?  Do we like it?

Maybe not.  But I believe God has good reason for His instructions to wives, and I don’t believe it is merely a relic of a bygone era where wives were chattel.  Its truth and timeless.

I did some research and found several resources which acknowledge the FEAR meaning of Ephesians 5:33.

M. Barth (p. 662)  “the substitution of words softer than ‘fear’, e.g. ‘awe’, ‘reverence’, or ‘respect’, contradicts philological evidence and must be rejected in favor of the literal translation.” Thus, he interprets Ephesians 5.33: “Just as a political revolutionary must ‘fear’ the ‘wrath’ of the authorities, wives appear to be enjoined to live in ‘fear’ of (the wrath of) their husbands” (p. 649). [Ephesians by Markus Barth]

“‘fear’ is a better rendering than ‘reverence’ or ‘respect’”  page 437 The Letter to the Ephesians by P. T. O’Brien

Some teachings interpret wifely PHOBEO along the lines of  FEARing a pounding from their husbands and/or God if she “disrespects” her husband .  I suggest that the  FEAR instruction to wives has quite a different focus than that!   A  close look at the account of Ananias and Sapphira clarifies the intent and importance of GODLY FEAR in a marriage.   It does involve fear of consequences, but not from “disrespecting” her husband, No.  She should have the fear of consequences upon herself and the children from failing to stand up to him when he is headed in the wrong direction.  His “private” vices can sow death, not only into his own spirit, but into the spirits of his wife and children.

Rather than living in FEAR of the WRATH of the husband- as the  quote from Barth states- I suggest that Paul and God’s intent is more along the lines of living in FEAR of the consequences of tolerating and  enabling lying to  the Holy Spirit.  Renounce the “Sapphira Spirit” and refuse to cover up and agree with a pretense of righteousness while your husband is keeping back, not part of the sale price of some land as did Ananias, but part of his very life.

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Among the few NT examples of marriage are Ananias and Sapphira- Acts 5.
Fear is a repetitive theme there.  The root cause of the death of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 appears to be an absence of appropriate FEAR.

Notice the repetition word for word of the birth of great fear, following the death of Ananias, and again following the death of Sapphira:

καὶ ἐγένετο φόβος μέγας
kai egeneto phobos megas
and came fear great Acts 5:5

καὶ ἐγένετο φόβος μέγας
kai egeneto phobos megas
and came fear great Acts 5:11

I am struck by the equality of responsibility, and of consequences. I am also struck by the root cause of their death- an absence of appropriate FEAR!

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” Ps 111:10.   Had Sapphira looked to Jesus for leadership instead of to her mortal husband.  Had Sapphira FEARED the consequences of her husband’s wayward scheme and stood up for righteousness, she might not have dropped dead and been carried out by the same men who carried out her husband.

The term PHOBEO is used expressly of the wife toward husband.  Eph 5:33 “wife that she fear [her] husband”. (Yes, I know that moderns like to read that as “respect” but the Greek is phobeo and all 90 other occurrences in the AV are translated “fear” and “be afraid” (see BLB)

I noticed that the Ephesians 5-6 periscope uses the word “fear”/phobeo/phobos in two other instances:

Eph 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear (phobos) of God.

Eph 6:5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear (phobos) and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

Does the latter sound like what one thinks of as “respect”? I don’t think so! This phobos/phobeo TREMBLES. That sounds like FEAR not “respect” to me!

Husbands are not always Christlike and do not always render “perfect love which casts out fear”.  I could write a book on that, but I’ll refrain and leave it at that.

I was just chatting with Paula Fether on another of my blogs and she referred me to a blog post of her own (click here) which is very insightful on the topic of fear (in 1 Peter).  In the comments section she offers her translation of Eph 5:33 which makes the most sense to me of any rendition I have seen:

“Above all, every husband must love his wife as he loves himself; otherwise, the wife lives in fear of her husband.”

The context is directed at husbands, not wives (25-33), and Paul is commanding them to love their wives as they love their own bodies. . .  Without that love, the wife truly must fear her husband.

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Dorothy Patterson criticizes Sarah Sumner’s “Men and Women in the Church” for sloppy treatment of grammar:

For starters, one line is not always a “verse”-in fact, rarely so. Second, word order in Greek or Hebrew is quite different from that of English. Third, early manuscripts were not divided into chapters or verses. . . . Often, she ignores verb tense and other grammatical factors. . .

What complementarians can Sumner cite who suggest that the household code paragraph in Ephesians 5 begins in verse 22? (157). . . Of course, it would be “unscholarly” to suggest that the paragraph begins with verse 22 since that would be grammatically and theologically incorrect. Sumner would do well to document carefully any such accusation of incompetence lobbed against complementarians or egalitarians.

Speaking of ignoring grammatical details, perhaps some grammar housekeeping around the CBMW site is in order?

Professer Bruce Ware writes:

As one reads Paul’s and Peter’s admonition that are directed specifically to husbands and wives, one notes that there is a particular imperative given to wives in each of such cases, regardless of the larger context. In each case, wives are told one thing, the same thing, in all four of these New Testament passages: They are told to “submit to” or “be subject to” or be “submissive to” their husbands. Here they are for the reader to see:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands (Eph 5:22-24).

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord (Col 3:18).

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:3-5).
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives-when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing-but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Pet 3:1-6).

It would seem a simple and yet a highly significant observation to make, from these texts, that every single direct imperative and admonition to wives requires of them the same responsibility: Besides other things that are said to them, they are commanded in every case to submit to their husbands. The force of this point in the current debate is strong indeed, and it certainly is relevant to the question of whether the egalitarian position treats every aspect of Scripture fully and does not diminish or disregard any of it. The fact that four different New Testament letters contain this one common command to wives each time they are addressed specifically, and that both Paul and Peter share in common this same message and emphasis, and that the command is made to wives in different churches and different cultural settings, would incline one to conclude that this must be among the most important aspects of a wife’s relationship to her husband. To miss this is to miss something highly significant about being a wife, as God intends it. And certainly, as Paul develops the point in Ephesians 5, the significance of the wife’s submission can be understood more fully because God intends her submission to her husband to be a picture of the church’s submission to Christ.” (Ware)

Ware curiously refers repeatedly to the biblical references to wifely submission in terms of “command” (3X), “admonition” (2X), “imperative” (2X), “told” (2X), “directed” (1X), and “requires” (1X). However, my research (STTOH) on the Greek grammar used by the Biblical writers points in a far different direction: a direction which lines up more with Gottman’s laboratory findings than with preaching like Ware’s.

The basic Greek verb translated “submit” is transliterated hupotasso. Grammatically , imperative is the mood which is used for a “command”. However, hupotasso in Ephesians 5:24 as well as Titus 2:5 and 1 Peter 3:1 and 5 are not in the imperative! (check out the parsing for yourself at http://interlinearbible.org/ or scripture4all.org or blueletterbible.org) Adding such words as “command”, “imperative”, “required”, and “must” perpetrates error.

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Trading the Double Bind for the Double Bond:
Overlooked Grammatical Details Shed New Light on
“Wives are Subject to Their Own Husbands in Everything” Ephesians 5:24


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As I mentioned, I have been working on a research paper. The entire paper is available in pdf  at the link.  The last page is posted below:

Trading the Double Bind for the Double Bond: Overlooked Grammatical Details Shed New Light on “Wives are Subject to Their Own Husbands in Everything” Ephesians 5:24


The Double BOND!

In the context of the Ephesians 5 marriage treatise, Paul repeats a phrase directed exclusively to husbands (never to wives) and instituted in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world: “leave and cleave”. This direction occurs 4 times in the Bible: in Genesis 2:24 just following the formation of the woman, twice repeated by Jesus in Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7 and by Paul in Ephesians 5:31. Interestingly, the Greek verb for “cleave”- proskollaó- used by Paul in Ephesians 5, similar to the hupotasso verb, is parsed by the Greek-English interlinear in the passive voice which can indicate that it is not something under the husband’s control. Perhaps it is appropriate to consider it a bonding work of God as in “what God has joined together. . . . ”? Furthermore, looking through the definitions for hupotasso (subject to) in the Perseus database, I found “post in the shelter of” and “append” which appear to me to correspond well with the definitions found for proskollaó (cleave) “glue on” or “to be stuck to, stick or cleave to”. Believing every word of the Bible in its original autographs to be God breathed down to the smallest detail, I don’t think this is accidental. We should not be surprised to discover that in the very same context of speaking of marriage as an organic unit, as a “one flesh” unified body, Paul states that the wife/body “is subject” (appended/posted in the shelter) to the husband/head, and the husband/head “will cleave” (glue) to the wife/body. They are interdependent and connected similarly to the way the systems of our bodies are interdependent and connected. Such an understanding of the Bible as supporting bonding, interdependence, and unity within marriage echoes Gottman’s laboratory findings quoted earlier as he has studied the science of a good marriage. The double bind placed on wives by much evangelical teaching on wifely submission in marriage is man made and should be cast off in favor of encouraging couples to embrace the “double BOND” which God intended.

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My daughter in law – a PA- married my son, an aspiring home businessman and future stay at home dad.  Upon listening l to Driscoll’s series on Song of Solomon, they were troubled  by his understanding of Titus 2.   Paige found encouragement in  the following analysis by Ben Witherington:


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Lately, I have found refreshment reading on Cheryl’s blog.  The following are several comments which were added to the discussion of John MacArthur’s sermon (which I mentioned in another post).  My reflections follow each comment.


Waneta Dawn:  What is so odd about the motives of Adam and Eve, is that Eve’s motives are neve mentioned. Similar to Solomon, who God rewarded for such motives, Eve wanted to be wise enough to distinguish good from evil. The serpent told her she could have that if she ate the fruit. She protested, saying she was not to eat it, and the serpent told her God hadn’t been honist with her and that she would be wise if she ate it.

Now Eve was sinless. She knew nothing at all of sin. She had no practice with identifying a con artist, so she ate.

Adam, on the other hand, had no such good motives. His motives were closer to Lucifer’s. He was openly rebelling against God and wanting to take God’s place.

Both sinned, yet the comps neve seem to notice that what motivated Eve’s sin was to want the same thing Solomon did–wisdom.

In other words, we can have good motives, and that can lead us into sin. You could say Eve did the wrong thing for the right reason. However, I do not find the desire of male comps to rule others (which they wrongly attribute to women) to be a good motive. So they are doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason, as did Adam and Lucifer.

I found this very insightful about the pure motives of Eve.  That is the first I have heard this, and I think Waneta has hit on the truth!  But I am inclined not to judge Adam’s motives quite so harshly. While Adam was not deceived and did deliberately rebel (according to the testimony of Scripture), he was also pure before the Fall, and I wonder if he chose to “lay down his life for his wife”?  Jesus, the second Adam, laid down His life for His bride, but He was doing so in submission to God rather than rebellion.  Perhaps Adam put his wife before God and decided that since she was going to die, he would join her in death? 


TL: As far as the use of teshuqa in Gen. 3:16, there is no way to extrapolate a clear bad or good meaning out of it. In fact, it may be that God’s warning to Eve includes both. She may become inordinately attentive to Adam in both good and bad ways, but they are definitely NOT spelled out. The point is that she is going to turn to him (the root meaning of the word) longingly when it may be that she should be turning toward God more.

What CAN be seen is that the mastering that the man will respond to her desiring is NOT good. It is far more clear that the mastering is bad then it is that the desiring is good or bad. Because of this it is my estimation at this time, that the woman’s error is an inordinate turning, almost a clinging, a self destructive yearning. This is the warning that God is giving her, and it may be that God hopes that by telling her she will be doing this, that when she finds herself doing it, it will help her to stop. That plus the warning that her husband is going to respond by doing something foreign to their relationship, something that is supposed to happen with the animals not between humans, that she will ‘wake up’ to it.

”Also her actions in hiding and covering are the same as Adam.”

I disagree. Adam was not deceived. He did what he did deliberately with full awareness. He cannot fault anyone else, although he tried. He was blame shifting. Eve on the other hand, was deceived. She was not blame shifting by naming her deceiver , she was acknowledging that it was the serpent who deceived her. She further acknowledged her sin of eating that which she was told not to eat.

”Both are guilty and culpable for their own actions in the fall”

Agreed. Being deceived is not an excuse that totally exonerates us. We do not escape the results of doing wrong because someone mislead us. Yet, there is a difference between having been deceived and knowingly deliberately doing that which we are fully aware of it’s wrongness. Adam dealt treacherously with God. In the midst of her deception, Eve did not realize she was disobeying God. That is the difference.

The consequence of Adam’s “inordinate turning” to lay down his life for Eve in direct and conscious rebellion against God is  the first “role reversal”:

NOW woman’s “desire will be for your husband” and she will  “lay down her life” in ways that violate God’s will and plan (though I don’t think women are conscious of doing so, there is definitely an element of deception)


Cheryl:  God isn’t silent. God said in Genesis 3:17 “because you did (this) and (that) cursed is….” God not only turns Adam’s excuse around as a charge of sin (the first “because” cause), but He adds the words “listened to the voice of your wife” which is an indication that the watchman listening to his wife’s deception in silence was a grave sin.

Adam was the designated “keeper” of the Garden.  A look at the Hebrew word for Adam’s commision to “KEEP” the garden and the greek word for a wife’s commision to KEEP the home will confirm that neither job is about domestic servitude.  The commission is to be a WATCHMAN and Titus 2 confers this responsibility upon wives.  “Keeper of the Home” – OIKOUROS.

To rephrase Cheryl’s observation:

“the watchman listening to her husband’s deception in silence is a grave sin!”
I repent!

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Last night my daughters ages 12 and 15 told me that they were having a discussion with their youth group leader (Janie) who told them that “the husband is the head of the household”. She also discouraged my 15 yo from pastoral aspirations because “leadership in the church is supposed to be male”.

My daughters have heard my ranting from time to time about these issues so they asked me about it. I told them that the Bible nowhere teaches that the man is the head of the household except in one case where its a pagan king making a law after his wife refused to appear before a drunken party of men wearing (only?) her crown and we had better not be referring to THAT as “christianity”. It would be better to call THAT Xerxianity!

They asked for verses which prove my points.

The first verse I suggested was 1 Tim 5:14.

My husband immediately grabbed a Bible, hoping to shoot down my ideas I assume and read with great gusto and delight:

“Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach;” (NASB)

I pointed out to him the italics for “widows” which is the Greek neos- young women (not just widows) as well as the italics for “keep house” which had a Strong Number with it in the Key Bible we were using. I suggested he look up that Strong number and see how “keep house” really should have been translated.

Look for yourself: Click on 3616 oikedespoteo

He turned to the Strong’s Definition:

1) to be master (or head) of a house

2) to rule a household, manage family affairs

“You see?” I said to my daughters?  The Greek there is oikedespoteo.  The word for “head” as in “the husband is the head of the wife” (not household!) is the word kephale and it means the thing attached to the top of the body, not the master/ruler.  Its an intimacy metaphor about the closeness of husband and wife.  I am his body.  Does that mean that he goes wherever I take him?  No, it means we are connected to one another.  On the other hand, the word identifying the wife as the master of the house is not the word kephale but another word which contains the word despot. 

Then I instructed my 12 yo to turn to Esther 1:22 and read the only occurance of a biblical verse where the husband is proclaimed “ruler over his own household”. 

“My daughters, do you see how that was a pagan pronouncement and is not Christianity at all but xerxeanity?”

Today, my husband has been (affectionately) referring to me as the despot of the household.  I am rather enjoying it.  :)

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An excerpt from “Women’s Calling as Ezer” by Mimi Haddad

According to Genesis, the only cloud hanging over Eden
was man without woman: “It is not good that the man should be
alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (Gen. 2:18, NRSV). What is the good or strong help women offer? According to R. David Freedman, the Hebrew word used to describe woman’s help (ezer) arises from two Hebrew roots that mean “to rescue, to save,” and “to be strong” (Archaeology Review (9 [1983]: 56–58). Ezer is found twenty-one times in the Old Testament. Of these references, fourteen are used for God and four for military rescue. Psalm 121:1–2 is an example of ezer used for God’s rescue of Israel: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

The quality of Eve’s help is never that of an inferior or subordinate. Eve by definition was created to lend a vital form of power. When you remember “woman’s creational DNA” as ezer—as strong help, it explains two perplexing issues…. [to find out what two issues, read Mutuality on the Members Only section of CBE here]

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There is a pop christian book out there whose author is a psychologist who took one verse and built a whole book on it, and did not evaluate the meanings of the Greek words in the verse.  According to his theology men have needs.  Their needs have an acronym CHAIRS:

The C-H-A-I-R-S acronym sums up for women how they can show their respect for their husbands, and stands for Conquest, Hierarchy, Authority, Insight, Relationship and Sexuality. {source}

So, according to this author, not only does a man NEEEEEED relationship and sexuality (to which I have no objection), but he NEEEEEDS

conquest hierarchy and authority

A couple does not just get away with doing marriage the Gen 3:16 way. The consequences are painful, the cost is high. Be afraid, be very afraid!

The Greek word in Ephesians 5:33- translated “respect” in the NIV and “reverence” in several other versions – is the word phobeo, Elsewhere it is consistently translated fear, be afraid, be afraid of, etc. Here is the breakdown of translation choices in the AV: AVfear 62, be afraid 23, be afraid of 5, reverence 1, misc 2

I believe that the text of the original autographs of Scriptures is Holy Spirit inspired and God breathed down to the smallest detail. There is another word which would more accurately express what we think of as “respect”. Paul and God did not choose this word. This word is time and is used of marriage, but of the husband’s duty toward the wife, not vice versa:

1PE 3:7 “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

Here the greek word for respect is “time” (value, esteem)

5092 time {tee-may’} from 5099; TDNT – 8:169,1181; n f AV – honour 35, price 8, sum 1, precious 1; 43 1) a valuing by which the price is fixed 1a) of the price itself 1b) of the price paid or received for a person or thing bought or sold 2) honour which belongs or is shown to one 2a) of the honour which one has by reason of rank and state of office which he holds 2b) deference, reverence

Note: The Greek “time” respect is commanded of all believers one to another: Rom 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour (Greek- “time”) preferring one another

Returning to consideration of Ephesians 5:33, a parallel instruction to wives to phobeo/phobos is found in 1 Peter 3.

1Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;2While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

3Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

4But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

5For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

6Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

Do you see the paradox there?
Wives, “FEAR”!
yet be “NOT AFRAID”!
The links go to the verse in the Blue Letter Bible where one can see the Greek word phobos and phobeo.

The question is WHY do Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3 tell wives to have an attitude of phobeo/phobos (fear, be afraid) toward their husbands?
What does this mean?

Think about Sarah, the role model given in the 1 Peter 3 passage. How did Sarah feel when her husband packed her off to the harem of a pagan king twice? Perhaps she struggled with fear? Nevertheless, GOD was with her. HE protected her. She was quite right to fear the men: her husband, that king. She was quite justified not to trust them, not to trust their motivations nor their spiritual maturity. What about fearing GOD? She did struggle with that too at times: “Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, ‘I did not laugh.’ But he said, ‘Yes, you did laugh.‘”Genesis 18:15

But God taught Sarah the same way HE teaches me and you!
GOD taught her

- by experience-

that HE is trustworthy, HE is faithful, HE is loving.

Think about Esther. There’s another woman who lived the paradox of “FEAR your husband” but “DO NOT BE AFRAID”! She feared her husband who could have had her put to death. But she trusted GOD and put her life in HIS hands.

Think about Sapphira and Ananias of Acts 5 infamy. Sapphira did not FEAR her husband nor God enough. If she had a healthy dose of phobeo/phobos, she would know that her selfish husband- like a hot stove or a loaded firearm- had the potential to be dangerous. Had she FEARED appropriately, she might have at least tried to reason with him and she certainly wouldn’t have enabled his foolishness by going along with it!

I noticed that the Ephesians 5-6 periscope uses the word “fear”/phobeo/phobos in two other instances:

Eph 5:21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear (phobos) of God.

Eph 6:5Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear (phobos) and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

Does the latter sound like what one thinks of as “respect”? I don’t think so! This phobos/phobeo TREMBLES. That sounds like FEAR not “respect” to me!

I find this validating. This passage is not about God setting up some impossible bar for wives, a hoop we need to jump through, a brick wall against which we must dutifully bash our heads or else we have “failed”. Quite the contrary, the instruction to wives to phobeo captures what being in a wife’s skin feels like.

The passage nowhere tells the wife to “love”. Yes, every Christian has a duty to love even our enemies as ourselves, but WHY does GOD leave out agape “love” when talking to wives about marriage? I think GOD does that because HE is merciful. HE knows that I cannot MAKE my husband love me and lay down his life for me. I cannot MAKE him obey God’s commands to him. When he isn’t submitting to GOD’s word and will, then he is dangerous and God knows it. I am designed by God to be insecure and FEAR when married to a man who is living for himself and that is OK, just as it was OK for the slave to fear and tremble. GOD UNDERSTANDS! It is also OK that my heart is hidden from my husband. 1 Peter says it will be. A wife cannot expose the deepest treasures of her heart; she cannot trust her pearls to one who will turn and rend her and trample them underfoot. She is not safe being vulnerable like that with a man who is living for himself. Its OK to be afraid, to fear him and the damage he is capable of inflicting.

Meanwhile the treasures of her heart are very precious to GOD. GOD says the hidden person of her heart is of great value to HIM (1 Peter 3:4). GOD says “daughter of Sarah, do what is right without being frightened by any fear” (1 Peter 3:6). GOD says “Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your GOD”. GOD says “perfect love casts out fear”. I am imperfect, HE is perfect. I press in to HIM that I may be comforted and feel HIS perfect love, … that He would grant me, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner woman, that Christ may dwell in my heart through faith; that I, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that I may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3)

So, what about “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear (phobos) of God.” Eph 5:21??? A couple does not just get away with doing marriage the Gen 3:16 way. The consequences are painful, the cost is high. Be afraid, be very afraid!

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Revisiting this one word in scripture which revolutionized my understanding of a wife’s authority.  Interestingly, the root word occurs in Titus 2:9 and 1 Peter 2:18 which I found a thought provoking  addition to this thread of the biblical tapestry.

OIKEDESPOTEO- “Head of the Household”

My understanding of a wife’s authority was revolutionized by understanding the meaning of one Greek word in Scripture. Katherine Bushnell lifts the veil on the well kept secret. Quoted from paragraph 368-369 of Lesson 48 :

Men often talk of the father and husband as the “final authority” in the home. What says St. Paul on the point? The Greek word for “despot” (despotes) furnishes us with our English word. Its meaning is precisely the same in Greek as it is in English. It means an absolute and arbitrary ruler, from whom there can be no appeal. It was the title slaves were required to use in addressing the master who owned them as property. Please read all the passages in which this Greek word despotes occurs. It is rendered “Master” in the following places: 1 Timothy 6:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:21; Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 2:18; “Lord” in Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 4; and Revelation 6:10.

Oikos is a very ordinary word in Greek, meaning “house.” These two words, oikos and despotes, unite to form the word oikodespotes, which, as you can see, means “master of the house,” and it is so rendered, Matthew 10:25; Luke 13:25 and 14:21. Now the Apostle Paul makes use of a verb corresponding to this noun oikodespotes, namely, “to master the house,”oikodespotein. He says, 1 Timothy 5:14, “I will that the younger women marry, bear children, oikodespotein, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” After the analysis of this word, we can all see how it should have been translated. The A. V., however, translates, “guide the house” the R. V., with a little more justice translates, “rule the household.” Now whom, if anyone, does St. Paul make the “final authority in the home?” The woman. But we believe that Paul would teach that God alone is final authority in a Christian home.

A visit to the online Greek lexicon resource of Tufts University will confirm the definitions exposed by Bushnell some 100 years ago: oikodespot- and oikodespoteō from 1 Tim 5:14 to be master of a house or head of a family, to rule the household

Have you ever heard before that WOMEN are to be “master of the home”/ “queen of the castle”?

Interestingly, “despot” occurs in the Greek in the context of two passages which are oft cited regarding the “role” of women. One could make much of the placement of these if one was so inclined.

Below, I have pasted photos of the interlinear version of Titus 2:9 and 1 Peter 2: 18 where the duty of the Christian toward the “despot” is expounded. (these can be enlarged by clicking on them). I had some fun meditating upon how it would look for a husband to take with utter seriousness his wife’s 1 Tim 5:14 “role” as the “despot” of the home.

Would his “role” relative to the “despot of the home” be the Titus 2:9 “bondslave” who is expected to “be obedient in everything, well pleasing, and not speaking contrary”? and/or that of 1 Peter 2:18 household servants “submissive with all respect to [despot] not only to good and gentle but also to unreasonable”? The images are from http://interlinearbible.org. Click to enlarge. The imperfect red underlining of  “despot” is my addition:

1 Pet 2:18


Titus 2:9

But ladies, all daydreaming aside…

This calling is not trivial.  Looking at the other occurrences of oikedespot- I was struck by what a HUGE responsibility the oikedespot= carries.  You can read through other  oikedespot- verses by scrolling down here.

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“being subject to one another in fear of Christ
Ephesians 5:21 (interlinear)

Part 2- “…in fear of Christ”

(continued from Part 1- “being subject to one another…”)

What does “in fear of Christ” mean in this context?

As I have discussed in previous posts, I am convinced that the passive voice parsing of “being subject” is accurate, thus the ones who “are subject” have not chosen to be so, they just are.  Its a description, not a prescription.  As a one flesh body with head is used as a metaphor for marriage in Ephesians 5, Paul also uses the body as a metaphor for the church both here and elsewhere: most notably 1 Corinthians 12:12ff:

12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.14Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17If 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? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Cor 12 (NIV)

Can you see there how the members of the body have no choice? They are interdependent?  Even if they say “I don’t need you!”, that is not true and is impossible.

The  same connection and interdependence of the body of Christ is expressed in Ephisians 5 in the phrase  “being subject to one another” Eph 5:21.

I think “in fear of Christ” modifies this, puts some boundaries on it.

Let’s re-visit the FEAR thread which I have addressed in previous posts. This is not the lone occurrence of FEAR in the context of Ephesians 5.  Bear in mind that our English versions are all translations.  The fear/phob- verb and noun occur three times in Ephesians- all within this teaching periscope:

Eph 5:21 “in fear of Christ” phobō 5401 N-DSM;

Eph 5:33  “wife that she fear [her] husband” phobetai 5399 V-PMS-3S;

Eph 6:5 “slaves be obedient to masters with fear and trembling” phobou 5401 N-GSM.

“and great fear came upon them”

Notice the repetition word for word of the birth of great fear, following the death of Ananias, and again following the death of Sapphira:

καὶ ἐγένετο φόβος μέγας
kai egeneto phobos megas.
and came fear great Acts 5:5

καὶ ἐγένετο φόβος μέγας
kai egeneto phobos megas.
and came fear great Acts 5:11

I am struck by the equality of responsibility, and of consequences.  I am also struck by the root cause of their death:

an absence of appropriate FEAR!

That is a topic warranting much attention as PHOBEO is a responsibility expressly  placed upon the wife in marriage. see Eph 5:33 “wife that she fear [her] husband”

Why did Sapphira follow her husband in death?  The passage explains that this happened because they “agreed together“.  The Greek word there is derived from, sumphóneó with root words  sun- together and phóné -voice.  Strong’s concordance defines sumphoneo as “to call out with, to be in harmony, generally to agree”.  Note how the word resembles our English word “symphony”

Ananias and Sapphira were a harmonious agreeable couple.

But what did they agree to do?

They agreed to to lie to the Holy Ghost (vs 3); to tempt the Spirit of the Lord (vs. 9).  The definition of “to tempt” provided here is “to challenge”.  They agree to lie to the Holy Spirit and to challenge the Holy Spirit.

Can you see how “in fear of Christ” can act like a restraint to put the brakes on when needed?  We ARE SUBJECT to one another indeed, but we ARE SUBJECT to Christ. If the gravitational pull of  “being subject to one another” is taking me on a downward spiral, then I need to do what I can to resist and counteract injury by that body part which is in mutiny.

Ephesians 5 warns of potential deception, and advises how to respond:

5 For this ye know __ that no __ whoremonger nor unclean person nor covetous man who is an idolater hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words for because of these things come the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them 8 For ye were sometimes darkness but now are ye light in the Lord walk as children of light 9 For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth 10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather __ reprove them (KJV )

Just imagine if Sapphira had heeded this instead of agreeing with her husband?  What if – in appropriate fear of Christ, and in appropriate fear of where her husband’s actions were taking them-she had not partaken with her husband but had instead reproved/exposed him?  She was his wife, the very one called to be his lifesaving ezer/”Help Meet”.  Instead of fulfilling that call to be a  lifesaving influence, she agreed with him unto death.

ETA: I was pondering this some more today and came back to a pregnant woman as a good illustration.

The baby inside her “is subject” to her.
They are one body, but they are unique individuals.

Who is the one on whom responsibility rests?
Who is the one who chooses what to do within this interdependent relationship?

Within the body of Christ, being subject TO ONE ANOTHER means each of us bears that motherly responsibility (if you will) for some others. Within the church, the “being subject” has more potential for reciprocity (“one another”) than is the case with an unborn child.

I was thinking how could a baby “being subject” to his/her pregnant mother clarify the “in fear of Christ”? I thought of how an unborn child sometimes appears to “fight back” against injustice “in the fear of the Lord” : the ones who survive abortions, for example,

But the biggest aha moment of this meditation is that MOTHER in this illustration- the one to whom the other one “IS BEING SUBJECT”- the MOTHER has a choice whether or not to receive the admonition “IN FEAR OF CHRIST” Eph 5:21. And the mother’s choices have far more power within this “one flesh relationship” than those of the one who “IS SUBJECT” to her. The one “being subject” may face a life and death struggle if his/her mother chooses a deadly direction…

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being subject to one another in fear of Christ”
Ephesians 5:21 (interlinear)

Part 1-  “being subject to one another…”

Recap: This is the last participle in a series of participles describing what “be [ye] filled with the Spirit” looks like.  (see  “Submitting” is a Participle)

All of the  participles in the series  are parsed in the ACTIVE voice with one exception:  “being subject” (sometimes translated “submitting”)  is in the PASSIVE voice.

see http://interlinearbible.org/ephesians/5.htm

I believe that the passive voice is accurate parsing and that Paul switches from active to passive in the case of “submitting” deliberately in order to communicate the truth about the nature of the subjection.

see “Wives [Subject] to Their Own Husbands in Everything” Ephesians 5:24

In researching passive voice some more, I found a blog by Jay Guin in which he presents a passive/middle voice dispute about the word translated “adultery” (MDR: The passive-voice argument) Aha, here is a man who understands the implications of PASSIVE voice!  He also has published a book online (Buried Talents–on the role of women) which includes a chapter about Ephesians 5 (Ephesians 5–Mutual Submission).

So, I put two and two together and suggested:

I was looking at your material on Ephesians 5, and I was also looking at : “MDR: The passive-voice argument”.

Please re-consider your interpretation of the passages where “wife” and “submit” occur together. In every instance except one, the hupotasso verbs are in the passive voice!

To which Mr. Guin kindly replied:


In v. 22, the verb is borrowed from 5:21, which is a present passive or middle participle. “Submitting yourselves” in 21 sounds very middle to my ear.

In v. 24, “is subject to” is present indicative middle.

I get my tenses from Zodhiates.

I’ve looked at your website. I’m not sure we really disagree as to the outcome. I’m no advocate for paternalism.

Mr Guin bases the choice of middle voice parsing on the fact that “‘Submitting yourselves’ in 21 sounds very middle to my ear.”  My thoughts on this are:

  1. The translation into English which he quotes has adopted the middle voice and does not reflect the ambiguity in the Greek.
  2. Paul switches from active voice for ALL the other participles in the series.
  3. The hupotasso verb used two verses down in Ephesians 5:24 is- to my ear- a clear passive voice based on  the contrast with other linguistic/grammatical choices of Paul’s within the periscope, as well as the context in which the manner a wife “is subject” is directly correlated  with the manner a body “is subject” to a head.

So I still think the passive voice is the accurate parsing and quite intentional on the part of Paul/God.  But that left me meditating, pondering, and asking God: What does being subject to one another  in fear of Christ” mean?  What does it look like in practice?

Part 2- “…in fear of Christ”

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