This article is also available in Spanish here.
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. 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 Greek words can be translated simply as “likewise”. 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 church meetings in Corinth and in 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 which indicates that 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). (His italics.)
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; [they are] 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 (Acts 21:9). They taught and admonished (Acts 18:26 cf. Col. 3:16). Some independently wealthy women, such as Lydia and Nympha, were even the hosts and leaders of churches that met in their homes. It is unlikely that these women were silent in their own homes and did not participate in church meetings.
[This section adapted from “Paul’s Instructions for ‘Modest’ Dress” here.]
Some women were even official ministers in the church . . .
Women were deacons in the church at Ephesus
There has been a long-running debate in the church as to whether the women mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:11 were official deacons or the wives of deacons. Up until the fourth century, there was no separate feminine form of the word for deacon: a male or female deacon was called diakonos in Greek (transliterated into English as “deacon”. It could well be that the female deacons in the Ephesian church were simply called “women” in verse 11 to distinguish them from the male deacons.
There are other indications in the text which suggest that these women were female deacons and not deacon’s wives. For instance, there is no mention of the wives of overseers (or bishops). 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 that a distinct but similar group is being addressed in verse 11.
“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 [overseers, male deacons, female deacons] in categories of a similar nature.” 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 refers to the male deacons, verse 11 specifically to the female deacons, and verses 12-13 to both the male and female deacons.
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.” 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 . . .”
There are indications elsewhere in the writings of the New Testament that women were deacons in the church (e.g. Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2). These women were welfare workers, and they were patrons and envoys of apostles and churches. They were prominent, respected, and held influential, official leadership positions in the church.
“Likewise” is used in still another passage about women.
Husbands should be submissive to 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. 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).
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.
 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.
 “Response” in The Bible and Women’s Ministry: An Australian Dialogue, Alan Nichols (ed.) (Canberra: Acorn Press, 1990), 72.
 The list of moral qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1ff assumes that 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. More about Paul’s qualification for church leaders here.
 Kevin Giles, Patterns of Ministry Among the First Christians (Sydney: Collins Dove Publishers, 1989), 61.
 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.
 Chrysostom (347–407) was writing at a time when there was a separate word for female deacons: deaconesses.
 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.
 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.
 Jesus, however, willingly relinquished his honour for our sake (e.g. Phil. 2:7-8; cf. Eph. 5:25).
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) apply also to subsequent verses without the verb 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 without being restated.
As stated in the article above, some scholars (e.g., Chrysostom, Calvin, 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 a popular and respected Bible version.
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 (women/female deacons).
The verbal idea “it is necessary” and the verbal idea “to be,” which is stated in 1 Timothy 3:2 concerning overseers (“It is necessary for an overseer to be …”), carries over and applies also in both 3:8 and in 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 even more obvious and it strongly indicates that all three groups of people were ministers in the church at Ephesus.
1 Timothy 5:1, 2
Paul is doing the same thing in 1 Timothy 5:1-2. Paul’s instructions to Timothy about rebuking and encouraging are in reference to the young man’s dealings with four groups of people: older men, younger men, older women, younger women. But in some English translations, it sounds as though Timothy is being instructed to rebuke and exhort (or encourage) only the older men.
1 Timothy 5:1-2 CSB, however, is an accurate translation: “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.”
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 many ancient 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. (A few manuscripts, for example, Codex Sinaiticus, the Stephanas 1550 Greek New Testament, and the new Tyndale House’ Greek New Testament, contain a Greek word that means “be submissive” in both verses 21 and 22, however.)
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).
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 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.
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Mutual Submission in Ephesians 5:21 and in 1 Peter 5:5
Gender Bias in the NLT
Interpretations and Applications of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
Questions about how to implement 1 Timothy 2:12
Paul’s Personal Greetings to Women Ministers
Working Women in the NT: Priscilla, Lydia and Phoebe
Submission and Respect from Husbands: 1 Peter 3:7-8