Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Close this search box.

Likewise women . . . Likewise husbands . . .


Many discussions about women’s roles in the church and in the home centre on defining key Greek words such as kephalē (“head”), authenteō (“dominate, control”), and hupotassomai (“be submissive”). I’ve spent many hours looking at the meanings and implications of these words in the biblical texts and in other post-classical Greek texts. It is essential, however, that we pay attention to every word in the text, and not just keywords, if we are to gain a better understanding of ministry in the New Testament church, and if we are to understand what the apostles taught about submission in marriage.

In this article, I look at the Greek adverbs hōsautōs and homoiōs in three verses of the New Testament: 1 Timothy 2:9, 1 Timothy 3:11, and 1 Peter 3:7. Both these ordinary and common Greek words can be translated simply as “likewise.”[1] By highlighting “likewise” in these three verses and, importantly, in the context of the surrounding passages, these verses become clearer in meaning.

Women Prayed Aloud in Churches in Corinth and Ephesus

In 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul plainly acknowledges that women prayed and prophesied in church meetings in Corinth. Many Christians have ignored this verse, however, and maintain that Paul wanted women to be completely silent in meetings. For centuries women have been excluded from being involved in any kind of verbal ministry in church services. This is due mainly to a misinterpretation of a couple of other verses in the same letter from Paul (1 Cor. 14:34–35). In some modern churches, women are still silenced and prohibited from praying aloud.

1 Timothy 2:9 is another verse that indicates women prayed aloud in church meetings. This verse, however, is less clear than 1 Corinthians 11:5 in most English translations. Kevin Giles, commenting on 1 Timothy 2:8–9, writes:

When men pray, they should do so in the absence of contention or anger; when women pray they should dress modestly. The reference to women praying is often missed by male commentators but it should be noted. In v.9 the words addressed to women lack a verb which must be supplied from v.8. In v.8 there are two verbs ‘to desire’ and ‘to pray’, which the adverb at the beginning of verse 9, hōsautōs (= in like manner) shows are both carried over (so Chrysostom, Calvin, Spicq, Barrett, Debilius and Conzelmann).[2] (Giles’s use of italics.)

Martin Luther also took 1 Timothy 2:9 to be in the context of prayer. He wrote, “Here Paul seems still to be speaking about public prayer. I have no objection if anyone takes it to refer to private prayer, but it is better to take it as public prayer.” Luther, Commentary on 1 Timothy.

So, a translation of 1 Timothy 2:8–10 that more fully conveys the intended meaning may be,

I want the men in every place to pray, raising holy hands without anger and arguments, and likewise I want woman to pray, wearing respectable clothing with propriety and modesty; not to adorn themselves with fancy hair-dos, gold or pearls or expensive clothes but with good works, as is proper for women who profess to be godly.

Women were involved in all kinds of verbal ministries in the churches of the New Testament. They prayed and they prophesied (e.g., Acts 21:9). They taught and admonished (e.g., Acts 18:26; Col. 3:16). Some independently wealthy women, such as Lydia and Nympha, were hosts who cared for congregations that met in their homes. These women were not silent in their own homes. They would have participated in church meetings.

Women were Ministers, or Deacons, in the Ephesian Church

There has been a long-running debate in the church as to whether the women mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:11 were diakonoi (“ministers, deacons”) themselves or the wives of diakonoi.[3] Up until the fourth century, there was no separate feminine form of the Greek word. Males and female diakonoi, such as Tychicus or Phoebe, were described with exactly the same word in Paul’s letters, and also in early church documents. It could well be that the female diakonoi (“ministers, deacons”) in the Ephesian church were simply called “women” in verse 11 to distinguish them from the male diakonoi.

There are other indications in the text that suggest these women were female diakonoi and not deacon’s wives. For instance, there is no mention earlier in 1 Timothy 3 of the wives of episkopoi (“overseers, bishops”).[4] It doesn’t make sense that Paul would regard the moral requirements of deacon’s wives to be worthy of mention, but not those of overseers’ wives. Also, if deacons’ wives were intended, we would expect a definite article or a genitive pronoun in the Greek of verse 11 (which could be translated as “the wives” or “their wives” respectively.) However, it is the use of the word “likewise” (hōsautōs) that indicates a distinct but similar group is being addressed in verse 11.[5]

“Likewise” (hōsautōs) is found at the beginning of 1 Timothy 3:8 and 1 Timothy 3:11. Lesly Massey writes that “likewise” is “customarily used to introduce the second and third entities in a series.” He suggests that the use of hōsautōs “seems to place the three groups [1. overseers, 2. male deacons, 3. female deacons] in categories of a similar nature.”[6] That is, the people belonging to these three groups are involved in somewhat similar ministries and require similar moral qualifications.

Taking the word “likewise” into account we can see that verses 8–10 refer to male diakonoi, verse 11 refers to female diakonoi, and verses 12–13 refer to both the male and female diakonoi.

John Chrysostom weighed in on the debate about whether the women in 1 Timothy 3:11 were deacons or not. In his Homily 11 on 1 Timothy, he wrote: “Some have thought that this is said of women generally, but it is not so, for why should he introduce anything about women to interfere with his subject? He is speaking of those who hold the rank of deaconesses.”[7] In response to 1 Timothy 3:12 (including the idiomatic phrase “a one-woman man”) he added “This must be understood therefore to relate to deaconesses. For that order is necessary and useful and honourable in the Church …”[8]

Clement of Alexandria also believed that 1 Timothy 3:11 referred to women deacons. He wrote, “We also know the directions ‘about women deacons’ (peri diakonōn gunaikōn) which are given by the noble Paul in his second letter to Timothy.”  Stromata 3.6.53. (Clement was referring to 1 Timothy 3:11 but mistakenly mentions second Timothy.) Aimé Georges Martimort writes that Clement understood from the context of 1 Timothy 3 that Paul was referring to women deacons and that “many exegetes have interpreted the passage in exactly this same way.”[9]

There are indications elsewhere in Paul’s letters that women were deacons in the church (e.g. Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2). These women were ministers, patrons, and envoys of apostles and churches. They were prominent, respected, and held influential, official leadership positions in the church.[10]

“Likewise” is used in still another passage about women.

Husbands Should be Submissive Towards their Wives

Many Christians believe that submission in marriage is the duty only of wives. These Christians often make a point of saying that the Scriptures never state that husbands are to be submissive to their wives. In his instructions to Christian men, however, the apostle Peter comes very close.

In his first letter, Peter uses the Greek word homoiōs—which means “likewise” or “in the same way”—three times: in 1 Peter 3:1, 3:7; 5:5. Each occurrence of this word is in the context of submission.

Firstly, Peter tells all his readers to submit to every secular authority (1 Pet. 2:13).
Then he addresses slaves and tells them to be submissive to their masters (1 Pet. 2:18).
Then he says, “Wives, likewise be submissive to your own husbands” (1 Pet. 3:1).
Then he says, “Husbands, likewise live together with your wives . . .” (1 Pet. 3:7).
In 1 Peter 5:5, Peter reintroduces the subject of submission and says, “Likewise, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders.” This is followed by a phrase that in some Greek texts has a clear exhortation for mutual submission: “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility” (1 Pet. 5:5 NKJV). (My underlines.)

There is no main verb in the Greek of 1 Peter 3:7, but, by using the adverb “likewise” (homoiōs), Peter links verse 7 with the previous verses about submission. It is not uncommon for Greek sentences to borrow the meaning of a main verb (or verbal idea) from a previous sentence, or passage, without restating the verb. However, Peter may have intentionally left out the word for “be submissive” in verse 7 to soften its impact and avoid offending the sense of male honour which was part of the culture of Greco-Roman society.[11] Nevertheless, the meaning remains. If “likewise” doesn’t refer to submission, what does it refer back to?

Peter may have been cautious about not offending men and their honour, yet he also tells them to give honour (timē) to their wives as they are joint heirs of the gracious gift of life.

Peter then goes on to say, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble …” (1 Pet. 3:8). These are the qualities we all should be striving for, along with mutual submission. Mutual submission and deference, rather than one-sided submission, is the ideal in Christian marriage and in the church (Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 5:5 NKJV).


If we are to truly understand what the biblical writers meant we need to pay attention to every word in the text, and not just the keywords. By ignoring even ordinary words such as “likewise” we can miss or distort the original meaning. Furthermore, we must never isolate a verse from the surrounding passage. The meanings of  1 Timothy 2:9, 1 Timothy 3:11 and 1 Peter 3:7 are obscured if we ignore their context. It seems that the meanings of these verses have in fact been obscured in the past to the detriment of the church, especially her women, and to the detriment of marriage, especially the wives.

The New Testament shows that women participated in church ministry, including official ministries and speaking ministries. And wives can expect their Christian husbands to be mutually submissive and offer mutual honour to them.


[1] BDAG gives the meaning of hōsautōs as “a marker of similarity that approximates identity, (in) the same (way), similarly, likewise”; and it gives the meaning of homoiōs as “to be similar in some respect, likewise, so, similarly, in the same way”.
Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition, revised and edited by F.W Danker (University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1106 & 707.

[2] Kevin Giles, “Response” in The Bible and Women’s Ministry: An Australian Dialogue, Alan Nichols (ed.) (Canberra: Acorn Press, 1990), 72.

[3] Paul is the only person in the New Testament to call a church minister a diakonos. This word can be adequately translated into English as “minister,” but it is typically translated as “deacons” in Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:8, 11 where the plural diakonoi occurs. Paul consistently used the word diakonos with the sense of an agent with a sacred commission. The men and women who were diakonoi in first-century churches associated with the apostle Paul had ministries that were not identical to those of deacons from the second century onwards.

[4] The list of moral qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1ff assumes the overseers in Ephesus are male, and married, and have children, and have their own reputable households to manage, but nowhere in the New Testament does it state that the leadership of churches is restricted to men only. Since the first overseers were house church hosts and leaders, it makes sense that more men than women would fill this role. More about Paul’s qualification for church leaders here.

[5] Kevin Giles, Patterns of Ministry Among the First Christians (Sydney: Collins Dove Publishers, 1989), 61.

[6] Lesly F. Massey, Women and the New Testament: An Analysis of Scripture in the Light of New Testament Era Culture (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1989), 61.
This pattern of hōsautōs being used “to introduce the second and third entities in a series” can be seen in the 16 or 17 instances (depending on the Greek text) where the word occurs in the Greek New Testament: see here.

[7] Chrysostom (347–407) was writing at a time when there was a separate Greek word for female deacons, equivalent to “deaconesses.”

[8] John Chrysostom, Homily 11 on First Timothy. Translated by Philip Schaff. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 13. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/230611.htm
The expression “one-woman man” or “husband of one wife” in 1 Timothy 3:12 did not disqualify women from being ordained as deacons in the early church, but some Christians today believe the almost identical same expression in 1 Timothy 3:2 disqualifies women from being episkopoi (church overseers).

[9] Aimé Georges Martimort, Deaconesses: An Historical Study (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986) Originally in French: Les Diaconesses: Essai Historique (Rome: C.L.V. Edizioni Liturgiche, 1982), 77.

[10] It is important that we do not project modern customs and roles of deacons back onto the first-century church; otherwise, we may obscure the actual roles of these early church deacons.

[11] Jesus, however, willingly relinquished his honour for our sake (e.g. Phil. 2:7-8; cf. Eph. 5:25).

© Margaret Mowczko 2013
All Rights Reserved

You can support my work for as little as $3 USD a month at Patreon.
Become a Patron!

Postscript: A note on eliding (leaving out) verbs in NT letters

It is not uncommon, especially in Paul’s letters, that a Greek verb (or two) applies also to subsequent verses without the verb (or verbs) being restated. This happens, for example, a few times in 1 Timothy.

1 Timothy 2:8, 9

In 1 Timothy 2:8 the Greek verb boulomai (“I want”) carries over into verse 9 also without being restated.

As stated in the article above, some scholars (e.g., Chrysostom, Calvin, Luther, Spicq, Barrett, Debilius, Conzelmann) believe that the verb “to pray,” as well as “I want” in verse 8, carries over into verse 9. So that Paul is in effect saying, “Likewise, I want women to pray with modest apparel …” It would be nice to see this translation in popular and respected Bible versions.

1 Timothy 3:2, 8, 11

As in the previous example, there is no Greek subject or verb in 1 Timothy 3:8 (concerning deacons) or in 1 Timothy 3:11 (concerning women, i.e. female deacons).

The verbal idea “it is necessary” and the verbal idea “to be,” which is stated in the Greek of 1 Timothy 3:2 concerning overseers (“It is necessary for an overseer to be …”), carries over and applies also in both 3:8 and 3:11. To be clear, there are no verbs or verbal ideas stated in 3:8 or 3:11 in Greek texts.

The word “likewise” in 3:8 and 3:11 makes the continuation of the verbal ideas obvious and it strongly indicates that all three groups of people (overseers, male deacons, women/ female deacons) were ministers in the church at Ephesus.

1 Timothy 5:1, 2

Paul does the same thing in 1 Timothy 5:1–2. Paul’s instructions to Timothy about rebuking and encouraging are given in reference to the young minister’s dealings with four groups of people: older men, younger men, older women, and younger women. But in some English translations, it sounds as though Timothy is being instructed to rebuke and encourage (or exhort) only the older men.

The Christian Standard Bible accurately translates 1 Timothy 5:1–2 as: “Don’t rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters with all purity.” (I’ve italicised the verbal ideas.)

Robert Stephanas, the person who added verse numbers in the 1500s, separated the men and the women by putting them in separate verses. But 1 Timothy 5:1-2 is surely one sentence and the verbs “rebuke” and “encourage, exhort” are to be understood as carrying through both verses and applying to all four groups of people.

Ephesians 5:21, 22

It’s not unusual for Paul to elide verbs or participles, but we usually have to add them to English translations for sentences to make sense. We do this, for example, in Ephesians 5:21–22.

The participle that means “be submissive” (or “submit yourselves”) occurs in verse 21 but not in verse 22 of two of the oldest Greek manuscripts. But a word that means “be submissive” is included in almost all English translations in both verses 21 and 22 so that it makes sense to us.

Similarly, the verb for “submit” occurs in the first half of Ephesians 5:24 in the Greek, but is implied and not stated in the second half. In most English translations, however, “submit” occurs twice: “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (I’ve added the italics). I have more about the Greek grammar of Ephesians 5:21–22 here.

1 Peter 5:5

Paul was fond of eliding verbs but, as mentioned in the main article above, Peter also does this in 1 Peter 3:7. There is no main (finite) verb in this verse.

Furthermore, I suggest that “be submissive” should occur twice in English translations of 1 Peter 5:5 as it does in the NKJV and other translations that rely on the Textus Receptus. A Greek word for “be submissive” occurs twice in the Textus Receptus and a few other Greek texts.

In most Greek manuscripts, “be submissive” only occurs in the first phrase of 1 Peter 5:5 but not the second; nevertheless, I believe the sense continues and that these two phrases should be understood as, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility” (1 Pet. 5:5 NKJV). The theme of submission runs through 1 Peter; Peter rounds this off by urging all to be mutually submissive (cf. Eph. 5:21). More on mutual submission in 1 Peter 5:5 here.

This is what David Bentley Hart has written about elided verbs (and verbal ideas) in his introduction to his translation of the New Testament.

It was common practice in koinē Greek … to elide verbs in predicative constructions, as well as some other syntactic ligatures; if done well this can produce an elegant terseness, if poorly, a confused heap of grammatical wreckage. Paul’s fondness for elision is so pronounced that any translator is bound to supply a large quantity of words only adumbrated in the original Greek (all those italicized words in the King James), and this practice often does as much to determine the meaning of verses as to elucidate it.
David Bentley Hart, The New Testament: A Translation (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2017), xvii.

Explore more

Submission and Respect from Husbands: 1 Peter 3:7–8
Phoebe: Deacon of the Church at Cenchrea
Interpretations and Applications of 1 Corinthians 14:34–35
Paul’s Qualifications for Church Leaders (1 Timothy 3)
Mutual Submission in Ephesians 5:21 and in 1 Peter 5:5
The Greek Grammar of Ephesians 5:21–22

26 thoughts on “Likewise women . . . likewise husbands . . .

  1. Wow, a lot here.

    I like the insight about 1 Tim 2:8 in immediate context and the other likewise insights.

    On the lack of the (definite) article in 1 Tim 3:11, the noun might still be definite without the article, so how it is read depends on one’s presuppositions in the absence of clarifying context. This is an aspect where it very easily could have been totally clear to Timothy, but since we do not know what Timothy knew back when, it is fuzzier to us today.

    On your note 3, I would word it slightly differently, by noting that the masculine forms of nouns can be used generically to refer to both genders, especially in the plural, but that the feminine forms always refer to women; this is just Greek grammar. Then the question remains on what to do about the phrase often translated “one woman man” or “husband of one wife”. But this can be handled by noting the other conditions that do not always apply and being consistent for all of them, as I think you imply.

  2. Indeed simple Greek words can reveal a lot. Probably you have earlier discussed the use of “brothers” (which means “brothers and sisters,” including in Paul’s letters, as is clear from its use, for example, in Rom. 16:17, after all the male and female names of 16:1-16). I don’t know if anyone has shown its importance in 1 Cor. 14, where it introduces the later section that includes women being silent.

    In 1 Cor. 14:26 Paul addresses his readers as brothers and sisters, and says each has something to say when they gather; in 14:31, he says you can all prophesy one by one so all may learn and all be encouraged. So how, in this context of brothers and sisters prophesying and participating equally does Paul then write in 14:34 that the women should be silent in the churches? The simple solution, it seems to me, is that these latter women were not sisters, but wives of brothers, wives who joined their husbands in the gathering. They are to ask their husbands at home, because their husbands are believers who have been participating already in the gatherings, while their “women” (another simple word, that in this context could be translated “wives”), since they are not sisters/believers, do not know as much. Paul then adds that it is shameful for a woman/wife to speak in church. This section on spiritual gifts (chapters 12-14) began with a statement against those who say “Jesus is cursed” (12:3). Maybe some women/wives heard words about a crucified Christ and concluded he was cursed.

  3. This is wonderful! I also wonder if it’s possible that in 1 Timothy 3, the categories as Paul meant them could have been:
    1. Overseers
    2. Deacons
    3. Women who are either overseers or deacons.

    What do you think?

  4. Don, I agree that “women” may still be definite even though there is no article. I’m not sure which part you exactly mean by “note 3”. Diakonos is both grammatically masculine and feminine depending on usage, there was not a separate feminine form in 1st century Greek. Is that the bit you meant? I’ve addressed the “one woman man” idiom here.

    Lucas, Yes adelphoi frequently refers to both brothers and sisters in the New Testament – brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s an interesting idea that you propose and I will think about it. My best guess is that some of the women wanted to learn and were disrupting the meetings with too many nuisance questions. This and other interpretations of the verses are here.

    Kristen, I have no doubt that some women were overseers in some house churches (e.g. The chosen lady, Nympha in Colossae, Priscilla with Aquila in Ephesus and Rome, Lydia in Philippi, perhaps Chloe in Corinth), but I can’t see that 1 Tim. 3:11 can be used to support the idea, especially as the qualification of teaching is not mentioned in this verse. (Having said that, we know that some early church female deacons did teach; they taught women, widows and orphans, etc.) Also, the wording of 1 Timothy 3:1-7, especially in the Greek, does not rule out the possibility that it applies to women overseers. So it might go: overseers in general (vs.1-7); deacons in general (vs.8-10); female deacons specifically (v.11); back to deacons in general (vs.12-13). It’s fair to say however, that most overseers were married male householders with children, and this seems to be the assumption, rather than the rule, in vs. 1-7.

  5. By note 3 I meant your endnote 3.

  6. Doh! I should have figured that out. *sheepish grin*
    Anyway, if people want to know more they can click on the link in endnote 3.

    I didn’t want to write too much about grammatical gender here as it might clutter and take away from the main point I’m trying to make. I write more about grammatical gender in the linked article.

  7. The NT presents marriage as a visible representation of the relationship between Christ and His Church. Within the context of marriage, wives are instructed to respectfully submit to their husbands as to the Lord, in the same way that the Church respectfully submits herself to Christ, and husbands are identified as the loving head of the wife, as Christ is the loving head of the Church (Ephesians 5:22-24). In an egalitarian relationship submission is a mutual exchange. Which Biblical passages would you say most clearly delineate Christ’s egalitarian relationship with the Church, and demonstrate His mutually submissive relationship with His bride?

  8. Hi Julie,

    The way I see it is that marriage is not a representation, or even an illustration, of the relationship between Christ and his church. Rather, the relationship between Christ and his Church is an illustration or model for marriage. But, as with any illustration, there is not a complete correspondence with the reality. Men and women are human and equal. We have the same source and origin. The same spiritual, intellectual and moral potential. The same access to God and the empowerment and gifts of his Spirit. Jesus, on the other hand, is the Son of God and divine. Neither men nor women are equal with him.

    Despite being part of the Godhead, Jesus did submit himself to us and for us during his earthly ministry. He temporarily lowered himself. He voluntarily laid aside his divine privileges. He allowed himself to enter this world as a helpless human baby through the body of a woman. He allowed himself to be mistreated and killed for our sake. He became a servant, even a slave (John 13:4-8; Philippians 2:5-8; Ephesians 5:25; Hebrews 2:9). He did this for his beloved Church. And we in turn, follow his example by becoming servants of one another, mutually submitting and preferring the other.

    Nowhere in Ephesians 5:21-33 is Jesus’ lordship or authority mentioned. The context is not leadership or authority but unity and sacrificial love. I like how Paul Barnett puts it:

    “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 than four occasions in that passage husbands are instructed to love (agapan) their wives. From a husband’s side it is a headship of agape modelled 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)

    Our husbands are neither divine nor sinless. They are not our saviours, redeemers or masters. They are not Jesus. And wives are not the church. Yes, wives are to submit to their husbands and respect them. But this certainly does not mean that husbands should not submit to their wives and respect them.

    Is there anything in the article itself that you would like to critique?

  9. Hi Marg,
    Thank you for your comments. I’m hoping this is an open forum for discussion and learning, not a critique session. Am I in the wrong place?

    To be sure I understand you correctly, I want to repeat back what I hear you saying. Essentially that, although Christ is divine, He, men and women are all equal in the sharing of headship, love and sacrificial service. There is no leadership or authority among these three, only mutual love and submission. Does this correctly summarize your view?

    One question I want to explore is a teaching suggesting that the instructions in Ephesians are not gender related, but rather a mutual expression of love and service among equals. In the version of the Bible that I read the words “husband” and “wife” are used, and it seems that there is a current effort, even on the part of the Church, to blur or even remove any distinction between these. Thus we might read that not only are husbands to be the “head of the wife”, but the wife is to be the “head of the husband”, and both are the head of Christ; and not only are wives to be “subject to your own husbands”, but the husband should also be “subject to his own wife” and Christ should be subject to all humans. As we read further, we might then read that “children are to obey their parents in the Lord, for this is right” and that conversely “parents are to obey their children in the Lord, for this is right”, and, extrapolated, even that it is right for Christ to obey humans “in the Lord”. In the context of the breadth of Scripture, these are absurd.

    While Christ did, indeed, subject Himself to be mistreated and killed for our redemption from sin (hallelujah!), Scripture does not proclaim that Christ suffers in eternal subjection to His bride, but rather that He is exalted/seated at the right hand of the Father and that He (the Father) put all things in subjection under His (Christ’s) feet – this includes the Church, His Body – where He is supreme, far above all rule, authority, power and dominion (Ephesians 1.20-23). He loves exponentially, to be sure, but He is not our equal, and as our “head” retains the right to judge here on earth (Hebrews 4.12-13) and to eternity.

    While we are equal in (not with) Christ when we believe (Gal 3.28), God has created from the beginning ordered systems with purpose (galaxies, days/seasons, communities, families, the Church). Is it not possible that the Holy Spirit actually meant what was written, that there are in fact gender-assigned roles for us while living on this earth that express the mysterious workings of the Creator in relationship to those who believe? Is there not God-design in the role of a man committing himself to loyally love and lead only one wife and their children? Is there not beauty in the role of a wife choosing to submit to her husband out of reverence for Christ, not grasping/demanding her “right” to be seen as an “equal” (Philippians 2.1-8)? May we not find joy in the Creator’s “well done” design for humans to be “male” and “female” (Genesis 1.26-28)? Do we insist on stripping men and women of gender, and marriage roles, and reduce male and female created in the image of the One True God to “humans” and “partners” because we “deserve” to be seen as equals?

    Would we then walk into 1 Timothy 2 and 3 and scream at the unfairness? How could God possibly scribe qualifications for a man to serve as an overseer, with a list of character qualities following, and not a woman? If we are going to equitably address the “likewise” of these chapters, how shall we view 1 Timothy 2.8-15? How do you suggest we, as the Church, present ourselves to the Scriptural designs penned here? Are we glad of heart to dress modestly and discreetly, to express godliness through our good works, to quietly receive instruction in church, to embrace our gifted role in raising children as a means of showing our faith, love, sanctity and self-restraint?

    Are we, as women in the Body of Christ, courageous enough to take up the basin and towel, and serve in misunderstood silent submission to the will of the Father, as did our Lord? Will we take into ourselves the lifestyle of love that Jesus personified, the laying down of ourselves for another, even a husband who is our head? Are we identified with Christ in His sufferings to the degree that we will stand tall under the banner of “female”, “wife”, “bond servant”, to show the world what agape looks like? Or will we align ourselves with Eve, who doubted the realness of God’s words and sought to be Adam’s head and God’s equal?

  10. Hi Julie,

    You’re not in the wrong place, but perhaps not in the best place. The post above is not on Ephesians 5, and I was wondering why you were discussing this particular text. (I have written about Ephesians 5:22-33 here.) You haven’t referred to this particular post at all.

    You wrote: “Essentially that, although Christ is divine, He, men and women are all equal in the sharing of headship, love and sacrificial service. There is no leadership or authority among these three, only mutual love and submission. Does this correctly summarize your view?”

    No, this does not summarise my view at all! I think I was pretty clear when I said in my first paragraph:

    “Men and women are human and equal. We have the same source and origin. The same spiritual, intellectual and moral potential. The same access to God and the empowerment and gifts of his Spirit. Jesus, on the other hand, is the Son of God and divine. Neither men nor women are equal with him.”

    There is no leadership mentioned in Ephesians 5:21-33, but without a doubt Jesus is Lord and Sovereign and the only Saviour. There are plenty of other verses in the New Testament that state this.

    I can’t help you in your desire to explore teaching which suggests that the instructions in Ephesians are not gender related because I’m not aware of that teaching, nor am I interested in it. However, I do believe that mutual love and service among equals are the New Creation ideal.

    I think Jesus and Paul made it clear that hierarchies (i.e. a society that is stratified by rank based on economic status, ethnicity or gender) is not acceptable in the body of Christ. I think when you use the word role, you may really mean rank (?) Being submissive is not a role; it’s just the way Christians should relate towards one another (Eph. 5:21). Loving someone is not a role; it’s also the way we should relate towards each other (John 13:34-35).

    I absolutely 100% agree that Jesus is no longer the suffering servant and is now triumphant and exalted!!! 😀 But Paul used Jesus’ humble, earthly life and sacrifice as the model for husbands, not his exalted, glorified state. I hope you don’t mean to imply that Paul meant to use the exalted Lord as a model for husbands. Yikes!

    I can’t find a single verse in the Bible that says that husbands should be the leaders of their wives (or women in general.) in Genesis 3:16 it says that one of the consequences of sin was that the husband would rule the wife, but this is far for God’s ideal. In Esther 1:20-22 (esp. v22) the Persian king Xerxes decreed that husbands should rule their wives. Christians, however, should not take their cues for living from the curses and consequences of the Fall or from decrees of pagan kings.

    “Head” in original, untranslated Classical and Koine Greek generally does not mean leader. More on this here and here. Also, the Bible does not state or imply that Eve wanted to be Adam’s head. That seems an odd things to say.

    Julie, I just don’t identify with your rhetoric. I love the Bible, especially the New Testament. I am particularly devoted to studying the Pauline letters. I don’t scream at Paul’s letters; I love them! I rejoice when I read them. I also love being a woman.

    Furthermore, equality should not be a right to be demanded, nor is it something that can be deserved; equality is simply a given. (Jesus didn’t grasp at equality with God because he was and is equal with God.) However, I would not criticize people who are oppressed and unjustly treated because of their race, religion or gender from standing up for the right to be regarded and treated as equal. I am so grateful that I live in a country that abhors racism, slavery, religious persecution, etc. (I would hate to be a woman living in Saudi Arabia.)

    I absolutely believe that all human beings are equal, despite our many varied differences, including gender differences.

    Lastly (borrowing some of your words), I hope all Christians will take up the “basin and towel”, and serve in submission to the will of the Father, as did our Lord. Isn’t this exactly what Paul was getting at in Ephesians 5:25? (But hopefully it won’t be a misunderstood submission as you suggest.) We should all embrace the lifestyle of love that Jesus personified, the laying down of ourselves for another. Again, Ephesians 5:25! Living and acting in submission, service and love has nothing whatsoever to do with gender.

    1. Marg, thank you once again for such a grace filled articulate response. I can’t say thank you enough for choosing to study and engage online with all sorts of questions and concerns. I am learning so much! Thank you for your kind tone and wise words.

  11. ” I think when you use the word role, you may really mean rank (?)”

    That is clearly unfair. She did not say rank, and there is no reason to think she meant it aside from a desire to paint all complementarians as sexist.

    Scripture implies* that men and women are equal, but clearly teaches that they have different roles within the church and the home. Similarly, Jews and Gentiles are equal, but have different roles in redemptive history and God’s future plan. That doesn’t seem like a particularly difficult concept to grasp, but so often egalitarians seem to think it is some kind of code to hide sexism.

    * I say “implies” because that is not really a clear teaching or emphasis within Scripture. Saying that it is “simply a given” is a nice way to avoid that, but it implies that God must treat humans a certain way, that we are owed something by Him, which I would hope we all disagree with.

  12. Julie, I just wanted to address a few of your points. First, I think the Ephesians 5 passage shows that while marriage points forward to the church’s future state of glorious union with Christ, marriage was never meant to be an illustration or reflection of Christ and the church, with the husband illustrating deity and the wife illustrating worshiping humanity! That is a recipe for idolatry.

    Second, the Ephesians 1 passage most definitely shows that the church is the one thing that is not under Christ’s feet! She is “seated with him,” by His side. Yes, He is her Lord– but the whole view of Christ and the church in Ephesians is one of Christ raising up and glorifying the church, not keeping her in subjection.

    Finally, don’t you think you’re getting the foot-washing picture a little backwards? If Christ were illustrative of the husband and the wife of the church– it wasn’t the church who submissively washed Christ’s feet! It was the other way around. It was Christ who took up the basin and towel. He was showing the disciples a picture of the upside-down kingdom of God, in which the last is first and the first last, where the leader is the servant and the follower is served. The last thing He ever intended His act of foot-washing to illustrate was the submission of a lower-status (which is what your use of the word “role” is actually about) person to a higher-status person. Galatians 3:26-4:7 (gotta read the whole thing, not just one verse) was intended to show that there are no status distinctions “in Christ.” We are all “sons” and “heirs” with the same status. It’s high time Christians stopped explaining verse 28 away.

  13. Julie wrote “The NT presents marriage as a visible representation of the relationship between Christ and His Church.”

    I see this as one of the things that may sound true, but it not actually true when the text is examined, as all believers are instructed to do.

    In Eph 5 Paul is doing a head/body mapping of husband/wife and Christ/church, it is important to see that the mapping is from husband/wife and to Christ/church as the other mapping can easily lead to husband idolatry, as Kristen points out. And exactly what does a head do in this mapping, it sacrificially loves the body, and Christ is the husband’s example for this. There is no leading aspect in the discussion anywhere by Paul here or elsewhere when he refers to Christ as head of the church; this is somewhat counterintuitive as head in 21st century English when used as a metaphor in this was almost always means leader; but such was not the case in the 1st century, which is when the text was written. We need to be careful to not teleport 21st century metaphors back into the 1st century and we esp. need to be careful to not extend the metaphor beyond Scriptural warrant, what the text actually says a head does.

  14. Hi Sara,

    I’m sure that Julie doesn’t speak for all complementarians. In fact the word “complementarian” hadn’t come up; you are the first person to use it. Julie is just stating what she believes, as am I.

    I truly believe that God has created all humanity as equal. I think this is seen most clearly in Genesis 1 and 2. However, just because we are equal doesn’t mean that God owes us anything one way or the other, nor does it imply that God must treat humans a certain way. I don’t understand your point here.

    When we say that a wife is to always be unilaterally submissive to her husband (on the basis of gender only), and the husband is always to be the leader/authority of his wife (on the basis of gender only), we are slotting people into two separate classes or ranks, and we are in danger of turning these behaviours into defining roles. I mean no disrespect by this. This is genuinely how I see it.

    I do not believe that wifely submission is a defining role. And the biblical directive that Christian husbands should lead and direct their wives, or be their authority, is nonexistent. Leadership is not the defining role of husbands.

    Like most people, my husband is much more, and I am much more. We do not fit into such a simplistic and polarizing category or definition of “roles”.

  15. Sara, the thing about “roles” is that the word means “different parts people play in life.” I’m sure you’d agree with that. But when the part one sort of person is to play is, by definition, always and irrevocably in authority over another person– and when the part another person is to play is, by definition, always and irrevocably under the authority of another person– then the idea of “rank” or “status” really is being added to the word “role.” This is not a vilification of complementarians; it’s simply getting real about what the complementarian position is saying. If all complementarians were saying was that women should play one part (say, homemakers) while men were to play another (say, breadwinners), then those would be simply “roles.” But complementarians do add more. They say that men are to be in authority over their wives, and that women cannot take positions of authority in the church. This is a matter of rank. Disliking the word won’t change the reality.

    As for whether God must treat humans a certain way– well, of course He is under no actual obligation, other than His own nature. But Abraham said “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justly?” And God listened to him! God is bound by His own nature to act in justice, love and mercy. And it’s not just a matter of human definitions of those words, because Jesus came to show us what God’s love, justice and mercy look like. Jesus never told the women who traveled with him that they should go home and be under their husband’s authority. He had to have His 12 apostles be male because the testimony of a woman was neither accepted nor admitted by the world. But the 12 apostles’ ministry began, at His Resurrection, with being forced to accept the testimony and preaching of women. Jesus refused to have rank and status among His followers. “Not so among you,” He said, “but the greatest among you shall be the servant.”

    As Marg says, “likewise men, likewise women.” That’s what the New Covenant is supposed to be.

  16. You are correct, Sara, in my comments role does not equal rank. I have not found any place in Scripture that delineates ranking, except that Jesus settled a question between disciples who wanted to be “ranked” by saying that the one who wants to be great should be the servant of all. Throughout history few have even neared supporting the elevated status of women, slaves and the oppressed that Jesus demonstrated. Clearly Scripture does not assign subservience between men and women. (There are some distinct instructions to those who are slaves, but that is a different conversation.)

    My point is simply to present the Scriptural perspective that in passages pertaining to men and women, as in the “likewise” conversation, we should keep to the agreement of the whole Bible, both the micro and the macro without contention. In Genesis 1 and 2, God created “man” and “woman” in His image. He created both, but He did not create them in the same way. Adam was created first from the dust of the earth. Eve was created second from Adam’s rib. Equally created in God’s image, but not created in the same way. Equally valued. Equally esteemed. Yet different. Adam from dust. Eve from flesh. Both in God’s image. Following deception and sin, God gave equivalent but distinct curses/consequences to Adam and Eve. God appears to have no discomfort with assigning curses according to gender or role; He addressed “the woman” and “then to Adam”. God also presented equal redemption to both man and woman by clothing them both with animal skin garments. One component of Eve’s human curse was that she would desire her husband and “he shall rule over you”. I did not make that up, it is written in Genesis 3.16. Was that part of God’s original design for the relationship between man and woman? Clearly not. But there it stands. And we struggle with it still in our relationships to this day. A marker that we, as humans, have sinned and live in a fallen world, experiencing only a dimmed mirror reflection of what God had in mind. Perhaps this is part of the groaning of Romans 8.18-24 which describes our longing for the full and final redemption.

    God also has no difficulty in assigning roles to created ‘things’. He set the sun to rule the day, and the moon and stars to rule the night. It is not just beautiful poetry, it is His design. Does that make one subservient to the other? Does it make one more important than the other? No. It is simply the way God made them, each with a distinct role, a unique part to play in His creation. Each glorifies the Creator by being exactly what He made it to be. (I am not here likening humans to ‘things’. Only pointing out that one of God’s attributes seen in creation is giving distinct functions to what He has made without indicating that one is better than the other.)

    When we look at God’s creation of a distinct male and female, then we should not be derailed over passages like 1 Timothy 2 & 3, nor over Ephesians 5, nor any other passage relating to distinction between male and female, or husband and wife. It is in keeping with God’s original creation of the two. In the same way we are not surprised (though we stand in awe!) at God’s mercy and redemption, because it is the same theme from Genesis 3.21 through Christ’s death and resurrection and onto the reading in Revelation of the names recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Mercy and redemption all the way through. Male and female all the way through. Themes which hold micro-interpretation in check.

    My original question, then, is the focus on “likewise” in 1 Timothy 2 & 3. In 1 Timothy 2.9, “likewise” follows instruction first to men, and then (likewise) to women. In the context of the whole Bible we cannot rely on this single word as a universal equaliser of men and women. We look at 1 Timothy 3.11, which in my Bible reads, “wives”, or “deacon’s wives”, likewise. Is there support for us to substitute “women” as overseers in this? Do we have backing to read the converse in 1 Timothy 3.1, “if any woman aspires to the office of overseer”? Is it not a passage dedicated to the description and instruction spoken to men in the position of deacon? Or in Ephesians 5 where we read the descriptors of “husband” and “wife”, may we not accept it the way it’s written? Is it ok that men and women are different? The absence of “woman” in the 1 Timothy 3.11 passage does not demean women, nor does it elevate men. We do not have to be equal in role or function to be worthy individuals. Men and women are equal in Christ, that is, equally redeemed, not newly made to be exactly the same (this side of heaven). Is it possible that this passage addresses something distinct to men and their wives, unique in function, valued, empowered, equivalently designed to serve and honor the Creator who made us different?

    It seems that when we work so hard to blur the distinction among what God has created that we sacrifice the beauty of diversity. Surely we are to be as the Bereans who search out the Scriptures to see if these things be true. “Likewise”, let us be careful when we read so much into one word.

  17. Julie,

    Adam and Eve were both a part, or a side, of the first human being. Eve was quite literally taken out of the first human. (The Hebrew word traditionally translated as “rib” typically means “side”. The Greek word pleura only means “side”, particularly the side of the body.) In the Greek it says that God “took one of his sides . . . and he built the side into a woman” (Genesis 2:21-22).

    Unfortunately, in English translations of Genesis 2 the first human is usually called “man” (which is incorrectly understood by most people as referring to a male human rather than to a generic person.) But in the Hebrew Bible this first human is not referred to as a male human. The word adam means “human being” when used with an article.

    It is this generic human who tended the garden and named the animals in Genesis 2. In Genesis 1 we see that both men and women were commissioned by God to care for the created world (Genesis 1:26-28).

    After the “operation”, the now male person saw the female person and said, “This one is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of ‘man.’” The first woman (ishshah) and the first man (ish) had both been a part of the first human being (ha’adam). They had shared the same flesh and bone.

    If this is a new idea to you, it may sound strange, but the Hebrew text does support what I’ve just said. And I am certainly not alone with these beliefs.

    Here is a link to the Hebrew of Genesis 2 with an English translation. (The only time ha’adam is translated into English as the proper name Adam is in verse 20. That is because here it is joined with a preposition which masks the appearance of the definite article. I think it’s a mistake to translate it as a proper name.) Unfortunately, those who can’t read Hebrew, will not be able to see that after the operation, but not before, the male human is sometimes called ish (which does mean male human). However, in most English translations, we can’t see the shift from the generic human ha’adam to the male ish after the woman had been taken out.

    Some more comments:

    I think you have misunderstood the section in my article about women deacons.

    I am not reading anything into the word “likewise”. It is simple enough in meaning. And I am certainly not relying on this word to function “as a universal equaliser of men and women.” Far from it.

    All I have done in the article is highlight that men and women prayed aloud in church meetings in Corinth and Ephesus (a modest enough claim), that women were deacons in Ephesus (equally modest), and that Peter wanted Christian husbands, as well as wives, to be submissive to their spouse. (I think it is this last section that you may have a problem with.)

    I am certainly not trying to say men and women are the same. Generally speaking men and women are different. And that’s a good thing! However we need to be careful that we don’t polarize the sexes. When Adam saw Eve he commented on their similarities.

    Some Christians seem determined to create differences between the sexes which aren’t even there. I don’t know of any non-biological trait that is exclusively male or female. And I don’t know of any spiritual blessing or ministry gift that is exclusively male or female. All of us are the same, and all of us are different.

    I am thankful for the differences between men and women and for our similarities. And I am thankful that in God’s eyes and in the New Creation we are equal.

  18. Hi Julie, I don’t know if you’ll see this comment, but I’ve just posted a new article that you might be interested in.

    In this post I take the Hebrew text of Genesis 2 and highlight every incidence of ha’adam (human) in yellow, ish (male human) in blue, and ishshah (woman) in pink. This shows that the first human was not necessarily male until after the “operation” in Genesis 2:21-22. This casts considerable doubt on the so-called “creation order”.


    Warm regards

  19. Julie,

    The only thing cursed in the Genesis account is the soil and the serpent. The woman is told that she will have increased pain in childbirth and in spite of this pain she will still desire her husband. Desiring one’s husband is not a curse but interesting in light of the fact that this love will produce pregnancy and therefore pain.

    That the husband will rule is not prescriptive but rather descriptive as to what would happen due to the fall. This is not speaking of leadership but rather tyranny (sin). This is not a command for husbands to rule. Again, this is just telling the wife what will happen as a result of the fall.

    Consider the following (Matt 20:25-28): But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

    A husband can no more infer from Genesis 3:16 that he is commanded to rule over his wife than the wife can infer she must insure that her husband’s garden yields thorns and thistles. Rule and thorns and thistles are merely things that will happen due to sin but are not commandments.

  20. Marg, you wrote:

    “Being submissive is not a role; it’s just the way Christians should relate towards one another (Eph. 5:21). Loving someone is not a role; it’s also the way we should relate towards each other (John 13:34-35).”

    I just wanted to let you know that I might just have to make a T-shirt out of that! Brilliant!!


    1. It bothers me how too many Christians codify what should be normal behaviour from Spirit-led Christians.

      A case in point is this question recently posted on facebook: “. . . Is women preaching a first order (Salvation) or second order (Issue of freedom) issue? OR is it a second order issue with first order implications? . . .”

      Sheesh! Let’s just get on with living like New Creation people who use their God-given gifts and abilities with love and justice.

  21. Excellent treatment here. I came to the same conclusion about *hōsautōs* some 25 years ago when I presented my first paper at a professional conference on 1 Timothy 3. I do think the similarity it implies is much stronger than *homoios,* though (compare the use of the latter in Luke 13:3 when he compares his listeners to the Galileans, while he uses the former in vs. 5 to compare his listeners to inhabitants of Jerusalem). I took my conclusions about 1 Timothy 3:11 one step farther than you, apparently: I argued that the reference to “women” (I agree with your conclusion on the absence of the definite article or a possessive pronoun) refers to women who served in either of those two (apparently formal) leadership positions, deacon or overseer. I think the “one-woman man” phrase in 3:2 signals he’s addressing males there (but the rest of the conditions could apply equally to males or females as I see it), but vs. 11 in context is Paul’s way of including women in *both* positions.

    1. It is interesting that Luke uses ὁμοίως and ὡσαύτως in two otherwise identical sentences (depending on the text) a verse apart.

  22. […] Likewise women … likewise husbands (Deacons in 1 Tim. 3) […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Marg's Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Join Marg's Patreon

Would you like to support my ministry of encouraging mutuality and equality between men and women in the church and in marriage?