Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

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Some Christians in modern westernised countries seem to long for an earlier time when most middle-class women stayed at home and stayed out of the workforce.[1] Some of these Christians even believe the Bible teaches that the woman’s primary domain is in the home where her primary responsibility is to care for her husband and children, the presumption being that all women will marry and have children.  They also believe the man’s primary domain is public, outside of the home, where he has various responsibilities including working for money.[2] The only time the Bible mentions that women should stay at home, however, is in two instructions regarding young idle women.[3] In this article, I look especially at Paul’s instruction in Titus 2:4–5.

The Context of Titus 2:4–5

In his letter to Titus, who was temporarily stationed in Crete, Paul wrote that the older women[4] should,

“train younger women to love their husbands and love their children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home [or workers at home], to be kind [or good], and to be submissive to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:4b–5).

As with every Bible text, we should read these verses with an understanding of the context of the surrounding passage.[5] Titus chapter 2 follows on from Titus 1:10–16 where Paul describes bad behaviours and ascetic ideas (regarding purity and defilement) that were ruining entire households in Crete. The instructions to the young women were, at least in part, a countermeasure to Jewish myths and man-made rules that encouraged asceticism (Tit. 1:14–15).[6]

From other verses in the New Testament and from early church documents, we know that some Christians were renouncing sex and marriage and were not having children (e.g., 1 Cor. 7:1–17; 1 Tim 2:15; 4:3). Some women were staying, or becoming, single and independent of husbands and families ties. With a narrow view of piety, they were freeing themselves from domestic responsibilities. Paul’s words in Titus 2:4–5 are partly a response to this phenomenon that threatened the reputation of the church.

The Basics of Titus 2:4–5

The content of the training in Titus 2:4–5 is basic and may imply that some of the young women of Crete were negligent wives and mothers and were abandoning their household responsibilities, either due to notions of piety or because of laziness (cf. Tit. 1:12). While the teaching is basic, it is also important. Moreover, much of it can apply to more people than just young wives.

~ It is important for wives to love their husbands. It is also important for husbands to love their wives (Eph. 5:25).
~ It is important for women to love their children. It is also important for men to love their children (cf. Eph. 5:2).
~ It is important for young women to be self-controlled (sōphrōn) and pure. It is also important for young men to be self-controlled and pure (2 Tim. 2:22).
~ It is important for women to be kind. It is important for everyone to be kind (Col. 3:12).
~ It is important for wives to be submissive—deferential, humble, cooperative, supportive and loyal—to their own husbands. It is also important for husbands to be submissive—deferential, humble, cooperative, supportive and loyal—to their wives (1 Pet. 3:7 cf. Eph. 5:21). (Note that the word “obedient” in the King James Version is not the most precise or accurate translation of hupotassō in Titus 2:5.)

Was it also important that the young wives of Crete be busy at home? If the alternative was being lazy and idle (cf. Tit. 1:12–13), or being single and relying on church support (cf. 1 Tim. 5:9–15), then yes, they should be busy at home.[7]

Being mostly housebound and occupied with work such as spinning and weaving was the usual socially acceptable situation for respectable Roman matrons in some parts of the Greco-Roman world.[8] In Western society today, however, young women have much more freedom and they can choose to use their talents and gifts to be useful and productive inside or outside their homes without causing a scandal. (See Matthew 25:14–30 NRSV.)

Does Titus 2:4-5 Define Womanhood?

Unlike what some Christians suggest, Titus 2:4–5 does not equate womanhood with being homemakers. Paul’s directive in Titus 2:4–5 was appropriate for the young wives in Crete at that time, yet these instructions do not define these women or women in general. None of the biblical authors attempts to define “womanhood.” Instead, the Bible shows that some women, even in ancient times, were involved in all kinds of ventures, ministries, and roles with God’s blessing.

Furthermore, nowhere does the New Testament give any indication that young girls or older women should always be confined to the home or restricted to domestic duties. There are Bible women who did important things outside their homes without any mention that they were doing wrong. I list some of these women here.

Paul’s instructions in Titus 2:4–5 and in 1 Timothy 5:14 were specifically related to young women of childbearing age and are similar to instructions written by pagan authors of the time.[8] Paul’s instructions directly reflect the cultural values of his day.[9] Since his words relate to a group of women in a culture different from our own, some of the concepts Paul mentions may not apply to all women everywhere. The principle behind his instruction, however, continues to have relevance.

The Timeless Principle in Titus 2

Paul’s principle is that Christians should not behave in ways that their society finds offensive, or in ways that society believes are disruptive to social harmony. Otherwise, Christians may find themselves bringing disrepute to God and Christian doctrine (Tit. 2:5, 8, 9–10).

Modern Western society is moving towards regarding and treating men and women as social equals.[10] Equality and mutuality are seen by many as the ideal. The delineated gender roles that were part of a particular demographic of past ages and previous generations are now recognised as not being appropriate or practical for all people and all marriages. Every person is unique and every marriage is unique. Not everyone, for example, fits the mould of post-war, white, middle-class gender roles that some presume to be “biblical.”

Churches and Christians in Western society who insist that men and women follow fixed hierarchical gender roles, roles that include women staying at home and only men being productive outside the home, are giving the church and God’s word a bad name, the very thing Paul wanted to avoid.[11]

What was socially respectable in Cretan society in the first century differs from what is socially acceptable in Western society today. Yet, even in the first century, it was sometimes possible for gifted and enterprising women to rise above social norms and not cause disgrace. Nowadays it seems to be that some sectors of the church are disgracing themselves in contemporary society by limiting, restricting, and subordinating their women.


The Bible never tries to make the case that women should not work or have influential roles outside the home. The Old and New Testaments show us that many godly women were not confined to the domestic domain. New Testament women such as Lydia, Priscilla, Phoebe, and Junia worked, travelled, and had influential leadership roles in ministry. Paul did not identify these women primarily by their family relationships or their domestic situations. Instead, they are described and identified by their work, their travels, and their ministries.

I love my husband and my now-grown children. I hope that I am self-controlled and pure, that I manage my home well, and that I am submissive to my husband as he is with me. Most of my work, ministry, and study, as well as family life, in fact, happens at home. But, I also have a life outside of my home. Titus 2:4–5 does not begin to define me or my various and changing roles in life. These two verses are not the sum total of what the Bible, or even Paul, says about women.


[1] Some material in this post comes from a previous article Working Women in the New Testament here.

[2] The idea of delineated domestic (or, private) and public domains for women and for men has its origins in Greek philosophy which influenced the Greco-Roman world, including Cretan society. However, in Roman times, domestic and public domains merged. This merging is seen in house churches, for example.

[3] The other reference is in 1 Timothy 5:14. In his first letter to Timothy, who was temporarily stationed in Ephesus, Paul wrote about the young widows:

“they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach” (1 Tim. 5:13–14).

These instructions were designed to keep idle young widows occupied so that they would not give the church a bad name (cf. Titus 2:5, 8, 10). These women were wealthy enough to be idle. A few may have been supported by the church. However, Paul instructs the church to only allow widows over the age of 60 to be enrolled as widows (1 Tim. 5:9). Poorer women worked for their survival.

[4] Older women or women elders? Some suggest the Greek noun presbytidas (from presbytis) used in Titus 2:3 should be translated as “women elders.” “Women elders” might be the sense here; however, the emphasis is on contrasting the older women with the younger women, just as older men are contrasted with younger men in Titus 2:2 and 2:6. Moreover, in the first century, the adjective presbyteros was typically used for “elder”; the nouns presbytēs (masculine) and presbytis (feminine), which are used in Titus 2:2 and 3, were rarely used for Jewish or Christian elders at that time.
The feminine word for “elders” is used in 1 Timothy 5:2. Is Paul speaking about female elders here? There is nothing in the New Testament that rules out the possibility that some elders in some churches were women. I suspect Priscilla was an elder of the church at Ephesus when she and her husband corrected the doctrine of Apollos. Moreover, the church at Ephesus seems to have been founded by Priscilla and Aquila. (I’ve written more on female elders here.)
Note also that Paul does not tell the older women in Crete that they are to teach theology, or the Christian faith, to the younger women. The idea that women can teach other women theology—an idea that is accepted in most churches—has less of a biblical precedent than women teaching theology to men. There are several instances where Bible women taught theology and prophesied to men. I mention all the female prophets in the Bible here.

[5] Apart from the 4 verses at the beginning and the 4 verses at the end, the letter to Titus is one of the most cohesive of the New Testament letters. The sentences and paragraphs flow and elaborate on one major idea: the conduct of the Christians in Crete. (Unfortunately, the chapter divisions hinder and disguise the flow.)
The Cretans described in Titus 1:10–16 were “unqualified (or unfit) for every good work” (pros pan ergon agathon) (Tit. 1:16). But Paul wanted them “to be ready (or prepared) for every good work” (pros pan ergon agathon) (Tit. 3:1). This repeated phrase highlights Paul’s purpose in his letter to Titus. He wanted the Christians in Crete to behave themselves, do good, and “live sensible, ethical, and godly lives” (Tit. 3:12 CEB). This way the Christian message wouldn’t be maligned, opponents would be silenced, and the teaching would be attractive (Tit. 2:5, 8, 10). Paul’s instructions about the young wives must be read within the context of the whole letter if we want to more fully understand the apostle’s concern and intention, including his heart for evangelism.

[6] The back story to Titus 2:4–5: The situation in Crete was that some young Christian women in Crete were abandoning the usual social responsibilities of young women now that they’d become Christians. The concern was that this could be seen as anti-social behaviour and cause the word of God, and the fledgeling church, to be maligned and discredited by non-Christians.
Later Christian women, such as Jerome’s friend Paula, abandoned the usual roles of respectable women and were praised for it. These women refused to get married, or they refused to marry again after the death of their first husband, and they sometimes left the care of their children to others. They did this in order to follow ascetic ideals tied to notions of Christian piety. The difference between the first-century Cretan women and Paula and her fourth-century contemporaries was that Christianity became a legal and established religion after the Edict of Milan in 310.

[7] Keeper at Home: The United Bible Society Greek New Testament has oikourgous, the accusative plural of oikourgos, in Titus 2:5. Oikourgos (with the letter gamma) means “a worker at home” (oikos = house + ergos = worker.)
There is a textual variant however: oikourous (without a gamma), is the accusative plural of oikouros, and literally means “house-keeper” (oikos = house + ouros = keeper or guardian.) This word is found in Titus 2:5 of later Greek manuscripts and in editions such as Stephanus (1550) and the Textus Receptus.
I’ve written more about these two Greek words in Titus 2:5 here.

[8] The idle young wives and young widows Paul refers to in Titus 2:5 and 1 Timothy 5:14 would have had household slaves for the mundane and difficult domestic duties. In these verses, Paul is speaking about the management of the home including socially respectable occupations such as spinning and weaving.

[9] For example, an ancient letter attributed to a female philosopher named Theano instructed younger women to listen to the teaching of older women. Theano wrote,

Indeed, to you younger women authority has been given by custom to rule over the household slaves once you have been married, but the teaching (didaskalia) ought to come from the older women (presbyterōn) because they are forever giving advice about household management. For it is good first to learn the things you do not know and to consider the counsel of the older women the most suitable; for a young soul must be brought up in these teachings from girlhood.
Quoted by Annette Bourland Huizenga in her book Moral Education for Women in the Pastoral and Pythagorean Letters: Philosophers of the Household (Leiden: Koninklijke Brill, 2013), 50.

[10] Ancient Epitaphs of Virtuous Women: Identical and similar words as those in Titus 2:4–5 are frequently found on epitaphs expressing the virtues of wives who were not Christians. Some of these words more rarely occur on inscriptions about men, such as for the gymnasiarch Sarapion who is described as loving his children (philotekne) and wife (philogynaie). IGA 2.371; SB 1 (1915) 411.

The following is a sample of inscriptions commemorating women. I’ve indicated the virtues that are mentioned in Titus 2:4–5 and elsewhere in the so-called pastoral epistles. There is no indication the women in these inscriptions were Christians.

On the coffin cartonnage of a pagan Roman woman, who died around the same time as the letter to Titus was written, are inscribed these words.

Here lies Valeria, daughter of Marcus, of free-born status from Caesarea in Mauritania. She was kind, affectionate, dignified (semnē) [as in 1 Tim. 3:8, 3:11 & Tit. 2:2], blameless, she loved her husband (philandros) [Tit. 2:4], loved her children (philoteknos) [Tit. 2:4], kept the marriage bed chaste. Out of respect and love for what is good, her husband Lucius Dexios from Herculaneum buried her. (Horsley’s translation.)

Οὐαλερίαν · Μάρκου · θυγατέρα · ἰνγένουαν ἀπὸ Καισαρείας · τῆς Μαυρειτανίας εὔνουν φιλόστοργον · σεμνὴν · ἄμωμον · φίλανδρον · φιλότεκνον εὐνοῦχον εὐσεβείας καὶ φιλαγαθίας εἵνεκε (or ἕνεκα) ὁ ἀνὴρ Λούκιος Δέξιος Ἡρκουληειανὸς ἐκήδευσε AE 828; SEG 1536.

This epitaph for Valeria is discussed by G.H.R. Horsley in “11. A Woman’s Virtue,” New Documents illustrating early Christianity, Volume 3 (1983), 40–43. In the same article, Dr Horsley provides more examples of epitaphs of wives that use the words philandros and philoteknos such as the following epitaph for Damostrata found in Nicomedia (Northern Turkey).

Here lies Damostrata.
Here, for her sake, I engraved and erected a stele.
She was modest/ moderate (sōphrosunēs) [1 Tim. 2:9 & 15], good (agathēs) [Tit. 2:5],
but she especially loved her husband (philandrias) [Tit. 2:4].
She lived with me twelve full years.
She lived 32 years in all. Farewell. (My translation)

ἐνθάδε κεῖται Δαμοστράτα
ᾗ ἕνεκ’ αὐτῆς στήλλην [στήλην] γράψας ἀνέθηκα
σωφροσύνης ἀγαθῆς
φιλανδρίας δὲ μάλιστα
συνζήσασαν ἐμοὶ πλήρη δυώδεκα ἔτη
ζήσασα ἔτη λβʹ. χαίρετε.
TAM IV, 1 124: Inscriptions.Packhum.org; Deutsches Archäologisches Institut

This epitaph, also found in Nicomedia, is cited by Horsley in “11. A Woman’s Virtue” in New Docs 3, p. 42.

O, instigator of miseries and the one jealous of the light of life!
You took away the woman I long for, Eutychiane is her name.
I placed here a stele in her memory from my own means,
I, her husband, Eutychios is my name.
Modestly (sōphronōs) [Tit. 2:12], she lived with me eight years and left me two small children―
she who was above reproach (akatgnōstos) [Tit. 2:8] and who loved her husband (philandros) [Tit. 2:4].
Dead at 25, her own allotted time complete,
her years were tragically cut short and she did not get to fully enjoy them. Farewell.
(My translation with contributions from Dr Lyn Kidson.)

[ὦ] πημάτων ἀρχηγὲ [κ]ὲ ζόης φθόνε, | φωτὸς
[σ]τερήσας τὴν ἐμοὶ ποθου[μέ]νην, | Εὐτυχιανὴν τοὔ[ν]ομα·
ἔνθα ἐθέμην στήλην [μν]ήμης χάριν εἰδίας
γαμετῆς [Εὐ]τύχιος τοὔνομα,
σω[φρ]όνως συνζήσασαν μετὰ ἐμοῦ [ἐν]ιαυτοὺς ὀκτώ,
<ἔ>λιψε δέ μοι [νή]πια δύω ἡ ἀκατάγνωστος [κὲ] φίλανδρος·
θνῄσκι δὲ ἐνι[αυ]τῶν κεʹ τὴν εἰδίαν μοῖραν [τ]ελέσασα,
ὧν ἔκαμε [μη]δ’ ἀπολαύσασα. χέρετε.
TAM IV, 1 130: Inscriptions.Packhum.org

The following excerpt is from a Roman inscription that dates to the late third century. It was published by Horsley in volume 4 of New Docs (1987): “10. A Judicial Career Cut Short,” p. 35. The inscription is about a deceased man named Rufinus and was written by his grieving wife who takes the opportunity to commend herself.

… And the mother of twin children, a fine woman (semnē) who loved her husband (philandros), sailed across the ocean and brought his body over the deep, and endured difficulties and continued in her grieving and laid him down in this tomb and bequeathed him to eternity. This monument is (testimony to) the wifely devotion (philandria) of Damostrateia. (Notes and Horsley’s translation of the full epitaph can be read here.)

… Ἡ δὲ τέκνων δισσῶν μήτηρ, σεμνὴ ⌜ἡ⌝δὲ φίλανδρος,
καὶ πέλαγος διέπλευσε καὶ ἤγαγε σῶμα βυθοῖσιν
καὶ καμάτους ὑπέμεινε καὶ ἐν θρήνοις διέμεινε
καὶ τύνβῳ κατέθηκε καὶ αἰῶσιν παρέδωκε.
Δαμοστρατείας ταῦτα τῆς φιλανδρίας
Epigraphic Database Roma

The following inscription for a woman named Hero may have been created to honour her while she was still alive. (Her husband and son are also honoured with similar inscriptions.) This inscription is from Hierapolis-Kastabala east of Tarsus in Cilicia, Paul’s hometown, in the Roman province Asia Minor.

The people [honour] Hero the Athenian and the wife of Arzybios the son of Lukios, who is living respectably (kosmiōs) [cf. 1 Tim. 2:9] and moderately (sōphronōs) [cf. Tit. 2:5]. She loves her husband (philandros) and loves her children (philoteknos). Erected [in her] honour. (My translation with contributions from Dr Lyn Kidson.)

ὁ δῆμος Ἥρω Ἀθηναίου γυναῖκα δὲ γενομέν[η]ν Ἀρζυβίου τοῦ Λουκίου κοσμίως καὶ σωφρόνως ζῶσαν, φίλανδρον καὶ φιλότεκνον, τειμῆς ἕνεκα. See Journal of Hellenic Studies (JHS) Volume 11 (1890): 250, 25.

[11] Mutuality, equality, and unity between men and women, rather than a gender hierarchy and divide, are also the ideals of the New Covenant (e.g., Gal. 3:28). Hierarchical complementarians divide the church. More on this here.

[12] Being a homemaker is a noble activity, and some women feel especially called to this role. I am not in any way discrediting or diminishing this function.

© Margaret Mowczko 2013
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“Busy at Home on Crete (Titus 2:5): A Private Domestic Space or Working in the Public Glaze?” by Dr Lyn Kidson (Read it here.)

artigos em portugues sobre igualdade entre homens e mulheres no lar e na igreja

51 thoughts on ““Busy at Home”: How does Titus 2:4–5 apply today?

  1. Polybius on the People of Crete: Their Customs and Character

    The Histories of Polybius published in Vol. III of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1923. Book 6, sections 46-47

    46 1 In all these respects the Cretan practice is exactly the opposite [of that of the Spartans, previously mentioned by Polybius]. 2 Their laws go as far as possible in letting them acquire land to the extent of their power, as the saying is, and money is held in such high honour among them that its acquisition is not only regarded as necessary, but as most honourable. 3 So much in fact do sordid love of gain and lust for wealth prevail among them, that the Cretans are the only people in the world in whose eyes no gain is disgraceful.

    4 Again their magistracies are annual and elected on a democratic system. 5 So that it often causes surprise how these authors proclaim to us, that two political systems the nature of which is so opposed, are allied and akin to each other. 6 Besides overlooking such differences, these writers go out of their (LCL p. 375) way to give us their general views, saying that Lycurgus was the only man who ever saw the points of vital importance for good government. 7 For, there being two things to which a state owes its preservation, bravery against the enemy and concord among the citizens, Lycurgus by doing away with the lust for wealth did away also with all civil discord and broils. 8 In consequence of which the Lacedaemonians, being free from these evils, excel all the Greeks in the conduct of their internal affairs and in their spirit of union. 9 After asserting this, although they witness that the Cretans, on the other hand, owing to their ingrained lust of wealth are involved in constant broils both public and private, and in murders and civil wars, they regard this as immaterial, and have the audacity to say that the two political systems are similar. 10 Ephorus actually, apart from the names, uses the same phrases in explaining the nature of the two states; so that if one did not attend to the proper names it would be impossible to tell of which he is speaking.

    11 Such are the points in which I consider these two political systems to differ, and I will now give my reasons for not regarding that of Crete as worthy of praise or imitation. 47 1 In my opinion there are two fundamental things in every state, by virtue of which its principle and constitution is either desirable or the reverse. 2 I mean customs and laws. What is desirable in these makes men’s private lives righteous and well ordered and the general character of the state gentle and just, while what is to be avoided has the opposite effect. 3 So just as when we observe the laws and customs of a (LCL p.377) people to be good, we have no hesitation in pronouncing that the citizens and the state will consequently be good also, thus when we notice that men are covetous in their private lives and that their public actions are unjust, we are plainly justified in saying that their laws, their particular customs, and the state as a whole are bad.

    5 Now it would be impossible to find except in some rare instances personal conduct more treacherous or a public policy more unjust than in Crete. 6 Holding then the Cretan constitution to be neither similar to that of Sparta nor in any way deserving of praise and imitation, I dismiss it from the comparison which I have proposed to make.

    Source: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Polybius/6*.html

  2. Good insights, as usual.

    Note that working and guarding were the charges given to the human in the garden and to the priests in the temple.

  3. If we qualify scripture by saying it is not relevant for our culture then why bother looking at it at all and instead do what comes most naturally?

    Paul was not saying we should not do things culturally unacceptable or else he would have been condemning Christ and most biblical characters of faith-who had faith to do what was different than what was culturally acceptable. Hence they died for their faith-obviously because they were not conforming. .

    But you sum it up well to say that these lazy women “would have had domestic slaves for the more unpleasant, tedious and difficult domestic duties”. Isn’t that just as true today-women who aren’t taking on the difficult tasks designed to mature us and our children?

  4. Hi Beth, Some verses in the Scriptures indeed have a specific cultural context and are not taken literally by most Christians today. For example, does your church stone children who are disobedient to their parents. Do men greet each other men with a holy kiss? Are you setting aside an amount each week to send to the church in Jerusalem?

    Titus 2:4-5 is vitally relevant today in that we need to be careful that our behaviour does not cause God’s word to be maligned by unbelievers.

    It is true that many individual faith heroes, both men and women, went against the cultural norm; however, Paul’s instructions in Titus 2:4-5 were to the “average” young Roman matrons in the Cretan church who were behaving in unacceptable ways. These women were not faith heroes. Their behaviour was giving God’s word a bad name among unbelievers.

    Paul had several female colleagues in ministry who could be called faith heroes. Priscilla (Romans 16:3-4) is one example of a woman who was not primarily involved with domestic duties but was busy in ministry in Rome, Ephesus and Corinth, etc.

    The wives who Paul refers to in Titus 2:4-5 would have been wealthy enough to have slaves to do the domestic chores. (Paul is not referring to the many poorer women who had to work for their livelihood and might often leave their own homes. Social respectability and the virtues of the Roman matron did not necessarily apply to poor women and female slaves.) Today, most westerners have electrical appliances to help us with housework, and we abhor slavery.

    I’m not sure what you mean about women today “who aren’t taking on the difficult tasks designed to mature us and our children.” There are plenty of situations in life that mature us. I don’t think that doing the vacuuming and laundry is particularly difficult or maturing.

    Let me add, though, that I think it is a wonderful thing to make a home where our family and friends feel welcome, loved, secure and provided for. I believe that this is true for my home. I also meet all the elements Paul includes in Titus 2:4-5, except that my busy-ness at home has little to do with housework (as there isn’t much housework to do here.)

    One of the main points in the article is to say that the instructions in Titus 2:4-5 do not define “womanhood.” Paul’s main point is that we do not unnecessarily cause the word of God to be maligned by behaving in socially unacceptable ways.

    Grace and Peace

    1. Always love your studies, comments, etc! I had to chuckle at your first paragraph when you said, “Do men greet each other with a holy kiss?” Ya know, this ‘holy kiss’ is commanded 5 times in the NT!! So we should do it, right? I grew up in an Anabaptist denom which has always, and still does to this day, practiced this holy kiss. Men greet men on the lips, and women greet women on the lips. This happens on Sunday, and before the day is over, most men and women have kissed everyone of their own gender.

      1. Hi Jo,

        Others have also told me that they do, in fact, keep the “holy kiss” directive. I, personally, can’t imagine kissing anyone, other than my husband and grandkidlets, on the lips.

        I have an article about “holy kisses”, with extra info in the endnotes about the practise in the ancient church, including a clear example where Christian men and women kissed each other: https://margmowczko.com/wifely-submission-and-holy-kisses/

    2. Hi,

      I first became a mum in 2014 so my then baby is a now almost five year old and we now also have a 3 year old and a 1 year old. I see this is an old thread but in light of my experience of the last 4 years I would suggest the following:

      1. That the instruction of Paul was likely to all women (as in written to Titus, to be read to the local churches as his letters were and to be taken and instructional by any Christian reading it thereafter) ie. not just to the ‘below average’ women.
      2.Most honest women would say that it is sometimes difficult to love their husbands and to love their children.
      3. Any person if being honest would say the to be self controlled, pure, submissive and kind is a challenge.
      4.. Women, in general, seem to struggle with gossip.

      I would suggest that Paul writes with loving exhortation to any women and that it is not helpful to consider these women as performing ‘below average’, I think we’re all pretty ‘below average’ apart from Christ and His word. I make a point of this because I feel that his supposed audience is used a lot to explain (or explain away as being ‘not relevant to most of us’) the rebukes of his letter, when they are in fact acutely relevant to all of us..?


      1. Hi Tineke,

        I’m not saying that Paul’s words (which aren’t a rebuke) only concern ‘below average’ women. (I must admit, I am uneasy with calling a person ‘below average.’) What I am saying is that Paul’s words concerning the young Cretan wives in Titus 2 are very basic and he most likely wrote them because they were in fact needed. (Papyrus was expensive; the apostles only wrote what was relevant to their audience.)

        As well as being basic, however, the behaviours Paul lists were and are important. I clearly state that they are important in the article.

        Rather than explain these behaviours away, which seems to be your suggestion, I have shown that these behaviours can apply more broadly than to just the young wives of Crete. Loving your spouse and children, being submissive (i.e. deferential, humble, cooperative, loyal), being self-controlled and pure, and being busy rather than idle, should hopefully be done by all married people, whether young or old, who have children.

        I also think it is very important that we heed the reason why Paul wrote what he did. It would be a shame if we follow the “letter” of his words and violate the very reason behind them.

      2. I know this is an older post, but I can’t read “Women, in general, seem to struggle with gossip.” I hate that, because if you listen to men speak, they gossip just as much as women, but people don’t see what they are saying as gossip. I’ve really been paying attention to the men around me, and they seem pretty free to speak poorly of others. I think blanket statements like this are extremely dangerous and just perpetuate the idea that women are lesser than men.

        1. Thank you, Shannon. I completely agree. There are several statements in T Wintour’s comment that I think are unhelpful.

  5. I was wondering if you could elaborate a little more about “keep house” or literally “house master”. I’ve seen where a similar word is used and translated “head of the household” or “landowner.” I was wondering if this word could help shine light on the discussion of man being “head of the house.” Thank you.

  6. Hi Ashley,

    I don’t get involved in any discussions about the man being the head of the house because it is a cultural, rather than biblical, slogan: There is not a single verse in the Bible that states that the man is, or should be, the head of the house, using either the Greek or English sense of the word “head.”

    I guess that you’ve seen footnote 5. Whether the word is oikourgos (literally, “house worker”), oikouros (literally, “house-keeper”)–or oikodespotēs (literally, “house master”) used in 1 Timothy 5:14–the actual meaning of these words refers to domestic management and oversight of the running of household. The instructions with these words were given to young wives in Crete and young widows in Ephesus.

    These young women were probably freeborn women of some status and, according to customs, were expected to be manage the running of their households. This would have included oversight of slaves and oversight of what we might call “cottage” industries to make items for use within the home, especially textiles. Some may also have had oversight of businesses that operated from their home. A dwelling often contained living areas as well as workshops and places of businesses. These women did not sweep the floor or wash the dishes; they had slaves and servants for that.

    Some Christians give the word oikouros (which has the etymology of “house-keeper” or “house guardian”) a more lofty, spiritual meaning, but I am unconvinced.

    Oikodespotēs is also used for “master of the house” or “householder” in the synoptic gospels: Mt 10:25; 13:27, 52; 20:1; 21:33; 24:43; Mk 14:14; Lk 12:39; 13:25; 14:21; 22:11. “Master of the house” and “householder” are the only two definitions given in BDAG p.695. Unfortunately, the NASB and other English Bibles sometimes translate oikodespotēs into English as “head of the house”. This confuses the instances where the Greek actually uses the word “head” in the New Testament (in Eph. 5:23 and 1 Cor. 11:3). I believe it is important to make the distinction between the Greek word for “head” and the English word for “head” as they have different meanings and implications.

    In the culture of New Testament times, the most senior, typically freeborn or freed, male was regarded as the householder. Women, however, such as Lydia, Nympha, Mary of Jerusalem, Chloe, and others were householders. These women were probably widows or divorced. The young Ephesian widows may have been householders of their own homes, but do not seem to have been doing a good job of it and were causing problems for the church (1 Tim. 5:13-15). They had too much time on their hands.

    My husband and I are the joint householders of our home, legally and culturally. In Australia, where I live, we don’t use the term “head of household” on official documents, but I believe that may be different in other parts of the world.

    I hope all this helps.

    1. I have often referred to myself as the Household Despot! I like it better than Household Goddess! But I have never really been tyrannical.

      Truth is that the word in Greek is tricky in English. Since I am not a good housekeeper, I do prefer my word!!

      1. 🙂

        They are tricky words to translate into English. “Housewife” doesn’t convey the real meaning. But oikodespotēs, and especially oukourgos or oikourous (in Titus 2:5), would have been readily understood by their first century audience. It simply referred to the domestic management of the household.

    2. I interpret from the bible that women are meant to manage their households, which could imply them as “head of the household,” biblically. But, I do believe that husbands are meant to be “head of the family.” “But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” – 1 Corinthians 11:3. The legal term “head of household” means that a parent provides over half of the income and support for the home and family, which could very well be the woman. Biblically speaking, women are meant to “submit” to their husbands in everything, as unto the LORD. It’s not meant to be the worldly view of submission but the heavenly humble, gentle, and loving view of submission as Christ submitted to God and the Church submits to Christ’s authority. It’s more so about the relational role, your heart, mindset, and level of respect given the husband from the woman, honoring his God-given position as husband. And, in turn, the husband is meant to be gentle, loving, and understanding of his wife. (Husbands, love your wives, be gentle with them as the weaker vessel, dwell with your wife with understanding, etc…) This concept is not meant to be a blow to women. Most women are more capable than their husbands to be the leader, but it’s not about capability it’s about the God-given position and roles of husband and wife. God knows each woman inside and out, do you think God underestimates what you are capable of when He knows more of what you are capable of than anyone? But, as Christ did not consider equality with God to be something to take advantage of, but He humbled HImself in great submission. Just as we must do. Use our abilities to serve as Jesus served us. I’m not perfect and I’m working on this myself, but it’s good to have your heart in the right place, not look at the worldly details and look at Jesus.

      1. Hi Alexandra, In Australia “head of the household” is not a legal term or a term that appears on our censuses, etc. It’s not a term most people use and I’ve never heard that it means that a parent provides over half of the income and support for the home and family

        Also, the terms “head of the household” or “head of the family” do not appear anywhere in the Bible.

        1 Corinthians 11:2-16, which includes verse 3, is about the socially respectable appearance of the heads or hairstyles of men and women who were praying and prophesying in Corinthians assemblies. These verses are not about marriage or family life, but about decorum in ministry. I’ve written about these verses here: https://margmowczko.com/man-woman-image-glory-god-1-corinthians-11-7/

        I completely agree that we should “use our abilities to serve as Jesus served us” and that we should “look at Jesus.”

  7. Thank you. That helps.

  8. In other words, Paul is saying just go with the cultural flow. Did I read that right?

  9. umm, no, I’m not saying that.

    At other times Paul encouraged New Creation ideals that were counter-cultural to Greco-Roman society. This is especially true in his earlier letters. These New Creation ideals – such as racial, gender and economic equality – are the goal.

    However, Paul did not want Christians to cause offence and bring disrepute to the gospel if it could be avoided. It seems that the Cretans were causing offence, so Paul tells Titus to teach them to behave in ways that were considered virtuous in his day. For the most part, these virtues still hold true today

    As with any biblical directive, we need to use wisdom and discernment in how we apply it today. There are times when we need to openly speak against, and stand against, cultural trends and norms.

    My main message is: Are we causing offence in our society needlessly and bringing disrepute to the gospel?

  10. It’s interesting that after that after the Fall of humanity, God basically lays out the roles for men and women after that point. Gen 3:16-19 painfull labor, bear children, desire for husband, he shall rule over you. That sounds like the husband is the head of the household to me. Also 1Corinthians 11:3. The man works, brings home food until he dies. Also if the verses in question were simple teaching for those women, it means their intended role was obvious to them. The only passages of scripture that teach of a woman working outside the home is Proverbs 31:10-31. With this virtuous woman, she is all about her household. She leaves the home occasionally to buy and sell, but never seeks employment.

  11. Hi Rusty,

    Genesis 3:16ff are not God’s rules for humanity; most of the things listed in these verses are the consequences of sin.

    The hardships mentioned in Gen. 3:16ff are not God’s ideal or plan for his sons and daughters who have been redeemed from the curses of sin. These things were not part of the world before the Fall and they will not be part of the New Creation. As we are already part of the New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17) we should not take our cues for living from the curses and consequences of the Fall. https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/gender-in-genesis-1/

    The Bible never says that the man is the “head” (or leader) of the household. In Ephesians 5:23 it says the husband is the head of his wife. However, the Greek word for “head” rarely if ever means “leader” or “authority” in original untranslated Classical or first-century Koine Greek.

    I like what Paul Barnett says about “head” Ephesians 5:23:

    “How is headship exercised? Husbands exercise it, we infer from Ephesians 5:22-33, as they love their wives as Christ loved and gave himself up for the church. On no less that four occasions in that passage husbands are instructed to love (agape) their wives. From a husband’s side it is a headship of agape modeled on the caring, sacrificial love of the Lord Jesus for his people (cf 1 Pet. 3:7). Men are not once directed to express headship in any other way, neither by decision-making nor leadership and least of all by any kind of oppression.”
    – Paul Barnett “Women in the Church with Special Reference to 1 Timothy 2″ in The Bible and Women’s Ministry: An Australian Dialogue, Alan Nichols (Ed.) (Canberra: Acorn Press, 1990)

    The use of “head” (kephalē) in 1 Cor. 11:3 is not about the relationship between husband and wife, but is about the origin of men and women. Men and women share the same origin; this is something the Greeks did not believe. I have written several articles about the meaning of “head” (kephalē) here: https://margmowczko.com/tag/kephale/

    The teaching in Titus 2:4-5 is basic. However, “basic” is not necessarily the same as “simple”. This basic teaching should have been obvious to respectable first-century Roman matrons. However the “New Roman” woman was making her mark on the culture of that time and, judging by Paul’s earlier comments in his letter to Titus, the Cretans were not models of virtue and respectability.

    I cannot find a single Bible verse that says that only men should work or bring food. There are plenty of verses about Bible women who worked:

    “The Bible shows that it was not unusual for ancient women to have a job. The Bible mentions women who worked in commercial trade (Prov 31:16a, 24; Acts 16:14 ), in agriculture (Josh 15:17-19; Ruth 2:8; Prov 31:16b), as shepherds (Gen 29:9; Ex 2:16), as artisans, especially in textiles (Ex 26:1 NIV; Acts 18:3), as perfumers and cooks (1 Sam 8:13), as midwives (Ex 1:15ff), as nurses (Gen 35:8; Ex 2:7; 2 Sam 4:4; 1 Kings 1:4) as domestic servants (Acts 12:13, etc) and as professional mourners. Women could also be benefactors (Acts 16:15, 40; Rom 16:1-2) and leaders (Judges ch 4-5; 2 Sam 20:16). One Bible woman even built towns (1 Chron 7:24). The Bible nowhere criticises women who worked outside the home, in the public sphere.”
    From https://margmowczko.com/new-testament-working-women/

    The woman in Proverbs 31:10-31 is not a real woman, but an idealised model. This woman does have employment. She has earnings and, with her earning, she buys a field and plants a vineyard (Prov. 31:16). She trades profitably (Prov. 31:18). She sells linen garments and sashes (Prov.31:24). There is nothing that indicates this woman left the house only occasionally, rather, she sounds quite involved in business as well as being involved in the management of her extended household.

    In Proverbs 31:1-9 we can read the inspired words of a real woman. These words have been preserved in Scripture, and so have the authority of Scripture. https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/the-other-woman-in-proverbs-31/

    Phoebe travelled, as did Priscilla, Junia and other women. There are plenty of things that good and godly women can do that have nothing to do with staying home.

    1. Hey Marg. I see your point but I’m still not convinced about your view on 1 Corinthians 11:3. It seems pretty straight forward to me. Also, the church is supposed to obey Christ and keep God’s commandments. Also, 1 Timothy 2:11-14 makes it clear that the woman should not have control over the man. It also says that the woman should “learn in silence”. 1 Timothy 2:11-14 “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
      ‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭2:11-14‬ ‭KJV‬‬

      I do not mean to offend anybody. In fact, a woman who obeys and follow God’s word is very attractive to Godly men.

      Blessings to you and your family.

      1. Hi Basil,

        We are all, men and women, boys and girls, are to obey Christ and keep God’s commandments. This is clear in many passages of the Bible. Obedience, however, is not mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. It wasn’t Paul’s concern in this passage. Rather, Paul’s concern was with the appearance of the heads (or hair) of the men and women who were praying and prophesying in church. I’ve written a few articles on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (including 11:3) here.

        I take 1 Timothy 2:12 literally and I completely agree that a woman (or the woman) should not control a man (or the man). I’ve written a few articles on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 which are posted here.

        Nothing you’ve said is offensive. It’s all fine.

        Blessing to you and your family too.

        1. I hear you but what about Ephesians 5:22-24 “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
          ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:22-24‬ ‭KJV‬‬

          Now I know your views on the word “head” but it is very obvious in the way they used it. They part where it says “wives submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord”, it’s telling wives to “submit themselves to their husbands” AS “unto the Lord” because the husband “is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” it even goes on to say “as he is the saviour of the body”. The body cannot function without the body. It is literally where the brain is. With all due respect, If you say that the man is not the head of the wife (i.e the leader of the household), you are also saying that Christ is not the head of the church because the term “head“ is clearly used in the same way in both cases in that verse. Christ is the reason for our church today. We are to follow Christ.

          Also, in Colossians 2:10 “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:”
          ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭KJV‬‬

          This verse talks about Christ being “the head of all principality and power”. It is very obvious who this term “head” is used. There’s no denying it.

          The woman was made to be the “helper” of the man. Don’t forget, we are all “equal in Christ”. The woman should help the man. In fact, God himself knew that man needs woman. So we need women in our lives to help us. Women are very important. The Bible even says “he who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favour from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). (1 Corinthians 11:8-12 “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.”
          ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭11:8-12‬ ‭KJV‬‬

          So yes. The man is the head of the woman (this means he is the head of the household) as Christ is the “head of the Church“, and “of all principality and power”. They are used in the same terms. The husband should lead the family and the wife should help the husband which is very important for him to lead because man and woman both need each other.


          1. Sorry I meant the body cannot function without the head haha.

            Have a good day.

          2. Hi Basil,

            Let me be clear. Nowhere do I say that the husband is not the head of his wife. And nowhere do I say that Christ is not the head of the church. I do not know why you would suggest such a thing. If you think this is my meaning, you are mistaken and misunderstanding me. Please read my words more carefully. You have written “Now I know your views on the word ‘head,’” but judging from your words, you don’t.

            So I will state for the record: “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.”

            “Head” can mean “leader” in English and it may seem obvious to English speakers that Paul’s intended meaning in various verses is “leader” or “person in authority.” However, Paul didn’t write in English. He wrote in Greek. And in Greek “head” didn’t usually mean “leader.”

            Also, while “head” and “brain” may seem synonymous, they are not the same things. Furthermore, the ancient Greeks viewed the brain very differently to us today who have the knowledge that comes with modern society. The Greeks, including Galen, a famous second century CE physician, believed that the brain was made out of semen. Most Greco-Romans saw the brain as the source of life and of nourishment, as well as being responsible for sense perception: sight, hearing. (More on this here.)

            A body can’t survive without a head (or a brain). But of course, a head can’t survive without a body, and the brain dies when the heart stops beating. Still, this ties in with the ancient view that the head is the source of life, not leadership.

            Paul uses the Greek word kephalē (“head”) in various ways in his letters. Often he uses it to mean a literal head, the thing on top of our necks. But sometimes he uses the word metaphorically.

            ~ In Ephesians 5:22-33, kephalē is part of a head-body metaphor expressing a close unity, and it refers to husband and wife, and Christ and the Church. It does not refer to man and the household or family. Note that the husband is never told to lead or have authority in Ephesians 5. Rather, Paul uses the word “love” six times when addressing husbands (Eph. 5:25-33). More on this here.

            ~ In 1 Corinthians 11:3, kephalē has the sense of “point of origin.” Several Greek-speaking early church fathers took “origin/source” as the meaning in this verse. More on this here.

            ~ In Colossians 2:8-9, kephalē has the sense of fullness and completeness. More on this here.

            ~ In Ephesians 1:19-23 kephalē is used in a head-feet metaphor. The highest and lowest extremities of the body illustrate the two extreme positions, with Jesus in the highest position as head, and authorities, including enemy powers, in the lowest position, under his feet. (Feet = lowly, humble position. Head = prominent, preeminent position.) This high position and the authority that comes with it (expressed with various words) is for the sake of the church which is his body. The head-body metaphor which also occurs in this passage signifies unity, with the head being the more prominent or preeminent member. The head-body metaphor also has a sense of fullness in this passage (Eph. 1:23).

            What all of these verses have in common is that kephalē has a sense of prominence or preeminence. The head is the most visible and most prominent part of the body. Christ is Lord and Saviour and he is preeminent. But Paul was not telling husbands to be lords and saviours; he told husbands to love and nurture. Still, in the society of that time, husbands were preeminent, and submission of wives to husbands is a good thing. In fact, submission, like humility, is a behaviour for all Christians. Submission isn’t just for wives (Eph. 5:22) and sacrificial love isn’t just for husbands (Eph. 5:1-2).

            I’ve written about Eve as helper here.

            You are right, man and woman need each other;we need to help each other. Mutual submission and mutual service are the ideals. This is Paul’s meaning in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12: “In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. For just as [the first] woman came [out of the body of the first] man, so [every other] man comes through woman [his mother], and all things come from God.”

            God is the ultimate source of all humanity, male and female. And source, or origin, is a theme in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.

            There are many Greek words that mean “leader” or “person in authority” but kephalē is not typically one of them in either ancient or modern Greek. The Greek NT uses many “leader” words for civil leaders, religious leaders, military leaders, and government leaders, etc, but these leaders are never referred to with the word kephalē. This is something to ponder. Why are none of these leaders called “heads” in the Greek New Testament? It is because the sense of kephalē is different from “leader.”

            However, because kephalē does have a sense of prominence, it is used in passages that are talking about authority, such as Ephesians 1:19-23 where there are lots of words that clearly tell us that Jesus is the ultimate authority. For example, the word “first” does not mean “leader,” but it can be used in a passage about a person who is a leader. Likewise, kephalē does not mean “leader” but it can be used in passage about a person who is a leader.

            Anyway, I read Koine Greek every day, and I have not found a text that plainly uses kephalē to mean “leader” before the second century AD. But let me repeat myself. Jesus is Lord. He is our ultimate authority. Just because I recognise Paul’s metaphorical use of kephalē doesn’t mean that I don’t think Jesus is Lord. He is!

            The authority that husbands had in the Greco-Roman world could be quite severe, so Paul avoids calling husbands leaders or authorities. He wanted to soften their power, not reinforce it. This is one reason he referred to husbands with the word kephalē. I write about Paul’s efforts to soften the power of the powerful in his household codes in Ephesians 5-6 and Colossians 3 here.

            If you read the articles I’ve linked to, you will hopefully understand what I really think about the word kephalē (“head”). I see no reason to prolong this conversation. But if there is a particular point or statement in one of the linked articles that you don’t understand, feel free to ask me about it.

  12. I appreciate your sincere answer and I applaud your diligent study of the Bible. We need more people like you in America, where I live. However, I am not convinced. I will now attempt to make a suggestion based on a worldly viewpoint. As I said, I live in America, a place where man thinks they have right to separate what God has joined together by law. A place where man thinks they have the right to kill and unborn child because of “women rights”. Get the picture? Anyway, the divorce rate is the same as the percentage of women in the workplace with men about %50! Crazy huh? Adultery, Divorce, Fornication, all these things run rampant here in the good in the good ol’ USA!
    The unemployment rate is high, but it has been studied and it seems that if women were at home, instead of in the workplace with men, the rate would normalize.

    I just wanted to share this thought with you. I have no further arguments for you, it seems your mind is set.
    I’m glad I had this opportunity to speak to a sincere child of God.
    I pray you will continue to glorify God all the days of your life.

  13. Hi Rusty,

    Thanks for your comments. I also deeply lament the state of western society.

    On the issue of abortion, things are not much better in many non-Western countries. In places like India, where women have very few rights, the abortion rate and incidences of female infanticide are tremendously high.

    Things weren’t much better in antiquity either. I study Roman history where women had fewer rights than men. (Some women had almost no rights at all.) Abortion was not uncommon even though it could be deadly for the mother as well as the baby. And unwanted babies of the rich and the poor were left exposed, sometimes in special areas. Some of these babies were taken and loved. Some were taken to become slaves when they were older. But many died from exposure. Husbands could insist that a baby be exposed. [I wonder how many abortions in America are done at the insistence of a husband or boyfriend?] The birth rate was extremely low in the early Roman Empire, and the Romans introduced laws as incentives so that women would have more children. For instance, if a free-born woman had 3+ children, she became legally free in her own right and no longer under the legal “protection” of her husband.

    Adultery and fornication were rife in Greco-Roman society. There was no expectation that husbands be sexually faithful to their wives. And people at the lower end of society, men and women and children, could be sexually exploited with no repercussions for the abuser. And divorce was easy.

    In Australia we do not have the same economic problems as in America. I believe this is mainly due to different banking regulations, as well as our mining industry. We have had women as CEOs of the major banks, and women hold some of the most senior positions in the mining industry. We have enough jobs for men and women.

    I don’t think the problems with struggling western economies can be solved by keeping women out of the workforce. There are too many other factors at play. Also, women are different from men; I believe we need the different perspectives and skills that women and men can bring to projects. I am grateful to the women in leadership positions in Australia who bring balance, wisdom and compassion into the workplace.

    Thank you for your kind comments and prayer. I really appreciate them.

  14. Hi, Marg,
    I enjoyed reading your post about the meaning of “busy at home” in Titus 2: 4-5. IMHO, I think the correct word is oikourous because it means guardian of the home. Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of Paul’s, used this word when discussing the duties of housewives. In latin inscriptions, good Roman wives were described as “domum servavit” or the guardians of the house. It would make sense that this would be the correct word. In both Roman and Greek culture, women were seen as the guardian of the household property. Demothenes said: “We have hetaerae for pleasure, pallakae to care for our daily body’s needs and gynaekes (wives) to bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households.” Roman women were given the keys to the husband’s households upon marriage because both cultures considered women to be charge of valuable possessions and economic security of the property. A woman who let a stranger in the house made the household more vulnerable to theft. In Titus 1:11, Paul warns against false teachers who “subvert whole households for filthy lucre”.

    In relation to the culture, it makes sense to me that Paul is telling young women that they must be “guardians of the house” so they are more vigilant about letting so-called “Christian teachers” in to deceive with false teachings. Compare this to 2 Tim 3: 6-7 about false teachers who lead silly women away by false teachings.

    From what I’ve read, Roman Crete had a similar religious problems to the Ephesian situation. I also think that when Paul tells young women to “be in subjection to their OWN husbands”, he is asking them to show a united front with their husbands against false teachers so that no one else can speak reproachfully against God’s word. This has nothing to do with submission to a husband’s authority. Paul is simply ask older women to teach younger women to use their culturally expected roles to guard the family against false teachings. Same thing in 1 Tim 5:14 when he asks women to “master the house” to “prevent slander by an adversary”. This is just my opinion, but I think it is the right one. However, if the word is really oikourgos – a worker at home, I don’t think it means much difference in light of 1 Tim 5:14. Another important role for women was “working in wool” or “lanam fecit” according to latin inscriptions.

    According to archaeological finds, Roman Crete had a large number of looms found in private houses that suggested that manufacturing textiles was extremely important for private household needs and suggested a local trade economy in wool garments. This is important because these looms were inscribed with women’s names suggesting they did most of this work, and this kind of economy beyond regular household use was unheard of in Crete prior to the roman era. Working in wool was considered something all women were supposed to do in Greco-Roman society so it isn’t too much to say that Paul could be referring to this. Men also worked out of the home, and their wives worked along with them in baking shops, cobbler shops, etc. While the term “working in the house” most certainly means domestic duties, it also may be inclusive of any profession in the house done by women.

    The Proverbs 31 wife ran a lucrative business in wool and linen in and outside of her home as well as purchased fields to grow produce for profit. The profit 31 woman is also said to “tsaphah” watch over the comings and goings of her household and to remain vigilant (Prov. 31: 27). I don’t think this is restricted to cleaning the house and chauffeuring the kids to activities in the modern sense. This is watching over the house for the moral welfare of the family. Anyway, those people who claim working in the house means a woman’s place is in the home are ignoring the culture from which this verse comes from.

  15. Hi Susan,

    Thanks for your comment and the extra, useful information. I agree with you that Paul is asking the Cretan women to fit in with their culture – a culture that was not influenced by biblical principles – for the sake of the Gospel.

    Women as “guardians of the home”, or in this case, house church, also comes up in 2 John 1:10-11.

  16. I think you kind of missed the point, distracted by trying to dispell the idea of homemaking. I really don’t think your article needed to be that drawn out. The verse is quite simple. The primary focus of the woman should be managing and working (the Greek) the home. Obviously, a woman can venture outside of the home, as shown in Proverbs 31. However, the Bible is very clear on that verse. It makes no sense to compose long, drawn out blog posts, simply because it doesn’t jive with the ideas of today’s society.

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5

  17. Hi Kim,

    I don’t dispel the idea of home-making or housework. Housework is a necessary chore. But I hardly think that every woman’s primary vocation is to have a clean, ordered home. The overall teaching of the Bible, which rarely mentions housework, does not indicate this.

    Jesus had many female disciples who travelled with him. They weren’t busy at home. In fact most of the women named in the Bible were not busy at home, women such as Deborah, Miriam (a single woman), Sheerah, Anna, Priscilla, Phoebe, Junia, and many more.

    My hope is that people will see the reason behind Paul’s teaching in Titus 2:4-5 – “so that no one will malign the word of God”. This principle still applies in today’s society. This is Paul’s point.

  18. I don’t think the infrequency of a verse is a reason to dismiss it. Also, you do realize that there were no “church buildings” and most of these women were working in homes? There were only 12 disciples and many women followed Christ. However, Mary and Martha worked in the home. The Titus 2:5 command is found in Titus 2, not the Gospels, by the way. If you think the “keepers of the home” command means simply to keep the house clean, I think you’re missing the point which would lead you to believe that the command is not really a command.

    You mentioned: “Paul’s principle is that Christians should not behave in ways that their society finds offensive, or in ways that their society believes is disruptive to social harmony, otherwise Christians may find themselves bringing disrepute to God and Christian doctrine”

    Please read 2 Timothy 3:12 and 1 Corinthians 4:19. Our society has standards for us that oppose God’s and we are always to choose God’s standards over the world’s.

    You also said, “The Bible never tries to make the case that women should not work or have influential roles outside the home.”

    I think the Bible esteems the idea of homemaking which includes raising children in the fear and admonition of the Lord as one of the most influential roles there is. Being a homemaker is certainly not less influential than any vocation. (Malachi 2:15)

  19. Though, I do agree with you. I don’t think the Titus 2:5 verse has little to do with cleaning the house and driving kids to activities. All believers are required to be industrious and busy themselves with serving others such as is the case with the women you’ve mentioned. However, this work should be primarily home based. Hence, the working “at home”. It does not negate Godly work. Proverbs 7:11 and 1 Timothy 5:13 show what happens when women neglect the Titus 2:5 command.

  20. Hi Kim,

    I’m hardly dismissing a verse. I’m looking at it closely, in context, and discussing it.

    Which Bible passages state (or imply) that God esteems housework?

    Does Jesus ever teach his disciples to keep house? (Jesus had many disciples, not just 12 (Luke 6:17). Some disciples were itinerant and travelled with Jesus, and others, such as Martha and Mary, weren’t.

    I think keeping a clean house is commendable and important, and housework is part of my daily routine, but it is hardly my primary calling or vocation. (Moreover, I don’t fit the “young women” part of Paul’s instruction.) That’s not to say that God doesn’t call some women, and even some men, to devote their life to housekeeping.

    Raising children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” is certainly important (Eph. 6:14). But this is something that fathers, and others in the family and community, as well as mothers can be involved with.

    Nowhere in my article do I say that women should not be home-makers or mothers. Or that these roles are unscriptural or dishonorable, so I’m not entirely sure what your objection is.

    Also, there is a big difference between being persecuted for our faith in Jesus and giving his Word a bad name.

    1. I’m assuming you didn’t read the Bible verse that followed or the reply that I sent. I never said that “keeping the home meant cleaning it. I actually mentioned in the reply that the Titus 2:5 verse has little to do with the activities of a modern day housewife.

      There is a lot of service (Dorcas, Priscilla) and industry (Proverbs 31) that goes in to keeping the home.

      Alongside Ephesians 6:4, there are verses in Deuteronomy 6:6-7 that clearly lays out the responsibility of the parents in teaching their own children. It was done all throughout the day, not for twenty minutes after work. Someone had to be responsible for this. It’s interesting how Timothy was instructed by his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5), which would be expedient seeing as how they were the keepers of the home.

      My objection is when it’s stated that Titus 2:5 is a vague suggestion rather than a biblical command, women can find much comfort in obeying God’s Word when being looked down by women who think their role as a keeper of the home is inferior.

      Also, you said “Christians should not behave in ways that their society finds offensive”. There is plenty, in the Bible, that offends society, which may seem to give God’s Word a “bad name”.

  21. If someone can minister to others by staying at home (e.g. through hospitality) that is great. But there are plenty of other ways to minister. I can’t find a verse in the Bible that says women need to minister primarily from home.

    Deborah, Miriam, Anna, and other women ministered primarily in public places.

    Women in other cultures have more constraints placed on them than women in western society that, if ignored, might cause the Word of God to be maligned. So for them it might be best to stay at home. Yet, even in patriarchal societies, some women have risen above societal conventions to be wonderful ministers and leaders.

    1. Also, it’s very confusing when you reference to Old Testament societal structures, even mentioning Deborah. The verse we are talking about is in Titus 2:5, the New Testament. If this was a commandment found in the Old Testament it would have been referenced (I suppose Proverbs 7:11 is the closest).

      The point is that Titus 2:5 is a command. You can explain it away and say that it doesn’t really mean what we think it means but the verse still stands and commands that women are to work at home and that the older women are to teach them to follow their example.

      But I suppose the point of this article was to explain how it doesn’t mean what it says so that women feel less guilty…I get it.

  22. Hi Kim,

    Titus 2:4-5 is not about raising godly children. All it says about children is that the young wives should be trained by the older women to be “loving their children” (philoteknous). I know many young mothers and none of them need to be trained to be philoteknoi, as they already love their children immensely. (As I say in the article, the instructions are basic indeed.)

    To understand that this verse is somehow about raising godly children is to read much more into the word philoteknous, and into this passage, than is reasonable. Other Bible passages speak about raising godly children, but not this one.

    Kim, you have said several times that I’m dismissing the verse. I am not dismissing it, in fact I am highlighting it by writing about it and emphasising Paul’s point.

    I do everything in Titus 2:5 – everything. Nowhere do I say that we are not to do the things Paul lists in this verse. Yet this one verse does not define who I am or what God has called me to be. Moreover the activities in Titus 2:5 do not define most of the women mentioned in the Bible – in both the Old and the New Testaments.

    It could be that Titus 2:4-5 encapsulates your identity and calling, and perhaps in your society it is wise that you stay at home so that you do not give the Word of God a bad name.

    There are five verses in the New Testament where Christians are commanded to greet each other with a kiss. Four were written by Paul, and one by Peter (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12b; 1 Thess. 5:26; 1 Pet. 5:14b). Do you kiss your brothers and sisters in Christ with a kiss? Do the men in your Christian community kiss each other? Or do they follow the principle and greet each other in another way that is more appropriate to your culture?

    I think it is very important that we understand Paul’s principle in Titus 2:4-5 which is clear because he states the reason for his command. We should not dismiss Titus 2:4-5, and we should apply it appropriately.

  23. Before I post my comment, let me firstly inform you that I am a student of theology. I am a graduating student from the Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary located in Liberia West Africa.
    Comment: I think the text under consideration’s can be used as a biblical basic for building absolute moral character in Christian’s women lives for the good image of the Christian faith. more to that, Christian’s women should live in a way that reflect the truthfulness of the gospel, they should bring up their children in such a godly way not deserting professional jobs and other means of supporting the family meaningfully.
    I need more of your academic help. I need more information on the role of women in Old testament Hebrew culture, New testament cultures, western and African cultures.

  24. Hi Emmanuel,

    My area of study is Christianity in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, so I can’t help you with books about Old Testament Hebrew culture.

    One of the best books I’ve read about women in 1st century Israel is “Her Price is beyond Rubies: The Jewish Woman in Greco-Roman Palestine” by Leonie Archer, published in 1990. It is expensive, but maybe your library can get it in for you.

    Another book I love and recommend is “Women in the World of the Earliest Christians” by Lynn Cohick (Baker 2009).

    Bruce Winter’s book “Roman Wives, Roman Widows” (Eerdmans 2003)is an excellent book, but I must admit I haven’t read it from cover to cover. Chapter 8 in his book is devoted to Titus 2:3-5.

    Craig Keener’s “Paul, Women and Wives” (Baker 2004) is a good all round book but Keener doesn’t look at Titus 2:3-5 in any depth.

    As far as commentaries go, I’d say that Aida Besancon Spencer’s new commentary on 2 Timothy and Titus in the New Covenant Commentary Series (2004) is a must have.

    I’d also recommend looking into Plutarch and reading the following book as it will present you with a view of women in New Testament times that is free from any Christian bias: “Plutarch’s Advice to the Bride and Groom and A Consolation to His Wife: English Translations, Commentary, Interpretive Essays and Bibliography”, Sarah B. Pomeroy (Ed.) (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999)
    Here is something I wrote about Plutarch and Paul: https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/plutarch-and-paul-on-men-and-women-and-marriage/

    If I think of other books I’ll leave another comment.

  25. It has been my understanding when reading the whole book of Titus that Paul was directing and reminding Titus to finish the work of appointing elders. in that an elder must be blameless. then using descriptions and defined terms that describe what blameless is. And what it is not.

    it has been taught to me that this was because obviously there were some problems with people obviously behaving poorly. overbearing, quick tempered, violent, drunkenness and the list goes on.

    When people are blameless it would not be necessary to remind Titus and instruct him in ways that are not blameless so to me there was obvious a problem of people being appointed elders who were behaving badly. And quit possibly Titus was letting it slide.

    Which brings me to the women. He goes into detail about the men but does not leave out the women. He instructs Titus in Titus 2 that they must have sound doctrine. Well there was no Bible so the doctrine must have been in behaviour and attitude. Teach the older men, to be temperate worthy of respect, self-controlled sound in the faith,in love and endurance.

    LIKEWISE (in the same way) meaning the same as with the women. TITUS MUST TEACH THE OLDER WOMEN to be reverent in the way they live. no slander or addicted to wine. He goes into detail what to do and what behaviour not to do.

    If the older women were following sound doctrine, blameless( and……down the list) Paul would not have to direct and remind Titus what to teach them. The result of teaching the older women would be that they model that behaviour teaching it to the younger women.

    To me it is blatant obvious there was a problem in in Crete. Because in Titus 2 verse 7 and 8 he is warning Titus of his own behaviour because people (the church) THOSE WHO OPPOSE YOU will be shamed and have nothing bad to say.

    I don’t think this whole book and the part about the women is about a single older woman TEACHING the young women to stay at home , keeping at home etc. I think they were just living wild. Gossiping, drinking to the point of addiction in other words partying. And the result of Titus teaching would be the doctrine of right Christian living and being blameless would then be taught and passed down to the younger women.

    In the whole book it is about the doctrine of living like a Christian and what that looks like in every day behaviour because clearly they were not and the church was going to give some push back about it.

    1. I’m not sure the Christian women were behaving wildly, but I do think they needed some training. Still, there is nothing distinctly “Christian” about this training. Paul wanted the women and the men (Tit. 2:2, 6) to behave respectably and with decorum according to the standards of Greco-Roman society.

      1. Then why does Paul say, “You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine”

        Doctrine of behaving like Christ? Blameless? .For the sake of the Gospel?

        Or normal Greco-Roman society? Why would he say that? What doctrine then is Paul speaking of?

        Maybe they were not behaving wildly, but anyone who is warned not to drink to the point of addiction in my books makes them sound like there could have been the possibility of drunkeness on an on going basis. Drunk people I run into cause lots of problems and are often out of control.
        I could be reading into that but alcohol consumption effects could not have changed much through the centuries.

        1. Paul is not telling Titus to teach the older women to train the younger women to be like Christ. He is telling Titus that the women should behave in socially respectable, virtuous ways so God’s word won’t be ridiculed by pagan society.

          The Greek words used for “sound/wholesome teaching” in Titus 2:1 (hugiainousē didaskalia) and “teachers of good/fine things” in Titus 2:3 (kalo-didaskalous) do not necessarily refer to teaching Christian theology or Christian doctrine. There is clear doctrinal statement in Titus 2 until verse 11.

          Perhaps the NLT correctly captures Paul’s sense in Titus 2:1: “As for you, Titus, promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching.”

          Paul’s words in Titus 2:1 continue on from Titus 1:10-16 where Paul relates that some people were speaking and teaching rubbish, and he wants Titus to do the opposite, to speak wholesome teachings.

          “Blameless” is a word that is often found on epitaphs of deceased virtuous pagan women. Did you look at the footnotes?

          I don’t doubt that at least one older Cretan woman was drinking too much wine. Otherwise, Paul would not have mentioned it.

          1. Thanks…that is good clarification. Too bad so many people make a ministry out of one thing like keeping the home….

  26. If this post is the worst The Joyful Patriarchal Wife can come up with on how an egalitarian thinks, you must be doing something right. I can find much worse from a complementation/ Patriarchal website. Shellie M. seems to think that egalitarian complaints about making housekeeping into a ministry is a sign of guilt. Funny thing is many egalitarian women have been, are, or will be homemakers at some point. Why does keeping house have to equal submission to a patriarch? Paul gives a reason for older women to teach young women to submit to their own husbands when he warned that false teachers were subverting entire houses with their heresy. In a culture where a girl can be married at 12 years old, a lot of these young women were sadly little more than children. Sort of like 2 Tim. where Paul complained about silly women ever learning and never coming to the truth. How old were these “women”? Makes sense to have older more mature women to help these girls discern what is true or false. I read somewhere that the religious environment specific to Create saw Zeus as a dead hero who seduced a lot of young wives. Imagine the heresy spread about by these false teachers. Telling young women to submit to their own husbands rather than false teachers (probably mostly male) May have been necessary. I wish people like Joyful Patriarchal Wives would think about historical settings rather than try to make this a universal and for all time commandment. It’s really very sad.

  27. […] Busy at Home: How does Titus 2:4–5 apply today?  […]

  28. […] Titus 2:3-6 is used by some Christians to affirm that women can teach other women. However, this verse is not about doctrinal or theological training, and it doesn’t contain the usual Greek word for “teach.” (I have more on Titus 2:3-5 here.)
    The Greek verb in Titus 2:4, sōphronizō, does not typically mean “teach.” In texts outside of the New Testament, the verb can mean “to bring to one’s senses.” In Titus 2:4, and in other literature, it has the sense of training or instruction in “prudence or behaviour that is becoming and shows good judgement” and can be translated as “encourage,” “advise” or “urge.” […]

  29. […] Paul wanted a kind of submission (or commitment) that was “out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21), “as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22), “as the church submits to Christ” (Eph. 5:24), “as is fitting in the Lord” (Col. 3:18), and “so that the word of God will not be maligned [by non-Christians] (Tit. 2:5). […]

  30. […] Paul’s instructions about submission are usually qualified in some way to do with Christ or God; there are parameters and limits to it. Paul wanted a kind of submission that was “out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21), “as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22), “as the church submits to Christ” (Eph. 5:24), “as is fitting in the Lord” (Col. 3:18), and “so that the word of God will not be maligned” by non-Christians in Crete (Tit. 2:5). […]

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