Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Paul's Main Point in Ephesians 5:22-33

The Chiastic Structure of Ephesians 5:22-33

Ephesians 5:21-33 is a passage that is often considered crucial in understanding the obligations of husbands and wives in Christian marriages. When we study and speak about this passage, phrases are usually dissected and closely examined, and certain words and phrases are highlighted, especially those that relate to the wife’s obligation. However, I have rarely heard a minister speak at length about Paul’s main point at the centre of this passage.

When we step back and read the whole passage in English there seems to be an overall lack of cohesion in Paul’s writing. Paul seems to be alternating between different subjects. He mentions wives, then husbands, then Jesus and the church, then husbands, and then wives again. This chopping and changing makes for confusing reading for most readers who are used to English literary styles. But it would not have been confusing for people in Bible times.

Paul uses a common literary device found in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. He used a chiasm to draw people’s attention to an important point. A chiasm is a way of arranging thoughts in sentences to form an X-shaped pattern.[1] The thoughts are stated sequentially in one direction until a main point or climax is reached; then the thoughts are repeated in reverse order. In a chiasm, the main point, or a highlighted idea, is often at the centre of a passage. Ephesians 5:22-33 is, in fact, beautifully structured with a vital point at the centre.

By understanding the chiastic structure of Ephesians 5:22-33, we can see that Paul makes two (or more) corresponding statements about wives, husbands, and Jesus and the church; and he repeats key thoughts such as sanctification, love, and the head-body metaphor, etc. It is important to consider each statement along with its corresponding statement to gain a fuller understanding of Paul’s teaching in this passage.

Here is Ephesians 5:22-33 arranged to show the chiastic structure. I’ve underlined keywords that are repeated in the corresponding statement.

A Wives, [submit yourselves] to your own husbands as to the Lord 

B For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church

C He himself is the Saviour of the body

D But as the church is subject to Christ, also the wives to their husbands in everything

E Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for her

F That He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word

X That he might present to himself the church in all her glory

F1 Having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she would be holy and blameless

E1 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.

D1 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also the church.

C1 Because we are members of his body.

B1 For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

BX This mystery is great, but I am speaking with reference to Christ and with reference to the church.

B2 Nevertheless, let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself

A1 And the wife is to respect her husband.

Christ and the Church

When we recognise the structure of this passage we can more clearly see the method of Paul’s message. Paul uses the example of Jesus as the “saviour of the body” with the most important point being highlighted at the centre of the chiasm. And he explains how Christ is the saviour of the body.

First, Christ lowered himself to our level when he became human and “gave himself up” for his church, even dying a degrading and brutal death on the cross (Eph. 5:25). But more than that, he elevates the church by cleansing, sanctifying, and glorifying it (5:26-27). It’s this elevation that Paul highlights, especially in verse 27a.

When we persistently interpret this passage only through the lens of traditional gender roles, this glorious message is lost or overshadowed.

… Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant (or glorious) church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25b-27

This is the message we should be highlighting more.

Paul wanted first-century husbands, who had a higher status and more honour because they were male, to follow Jesus’s example by lowering themselves (giving themselves up for their wives), and also by elevating their wives (loving and nurturing their wives as their own male bodies). See the E and E1 statements above in the chiasm. Paul wanted a levelling of status and honour between husband and wife, with mutuality and unity as the ideal.

Note, however, that husbands cannot cleanse or sanctify their Christian wives. That’s the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The person in this video shows what happens when we miss Paul’s intent in this passage. My critique of his message is in footnote 2.

Husbands and Wives

By reading Ephesians 22-23 as chiasm we gain a better understanding of Paul’s instructions and what he meant by the wife being submissive and the husband being the “head.”[3]

Paul links submission with respect in the ‘A’ sentences (Eph 5:22, 33b). So it seems that submission and respect are somehow connected. The word for “submit” does not appear in several ancient manuscripts containing Ephesians 5:22, it is inferred from the preceding verse where Paul’s calls for mutual submission among all believers, that is, among Christian brothers and sisters.[4] In fact, the entire Ephesians 5-6 “household code,” including Ephesians 5:22-33, is introduced by a call to mutual submission: “Submit yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21).

In the ‘B’ statements, Paul links “the husband is the head of the wife” with a verse that goes back to Genesis 2: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Eph. 5:23, 31, cf. 33a)Many people read the word “head” and interpret it metaphorically as “leader” or “authority.” Yet “head” rarely had the metaphorical meaning of authority in ancient Greek. Paul’s real implication of using the head-body metaphor is of unity. Paul writes about the unity between Jesus Christ and the church, and uses this example to encourage husbands to love their wives. (More about the head-body metaphor in Eph. 5:22ff here.)

In the Greco-Roman world, husbands (and parents and male and female slave owners who are addressed in Ephesians 6) had more power than wives (and children and slaves) but Paul did not want the more powerful people to exploit, abuse, or harass those with less power. (More about power in the household codes here.)

Furthermore, even though husbands had more power than their wives, Paul never uses words that mean lead, leader, or leadership in his words to husbands in Ephesians 5:25ff or elsewhere (cf. Col. 3:19). Neither patriarchy or male-only leadership is being taught or reinforced in the Ephesians 5-6 household code. There is no implication of a gender hierarchy in the following statements to husbands, but the concepts of yielding, affinity, unity, and love:

~ husbands ought even to love their own wives as their own bodies …
~ the two shall become one flesh …
~ each individual among you [should] also love his own wife even as himself.

A husband who truly loves his wife as his own body, treats her as his equal.

Conclusion

The unity between Jesus Christ and his church, and how Jesus achieved this by being our saviour, is a profound model for the union of marriage. As followers of Jesus, both husbands and wives should be building unity, nurture, love, and respect in their marriages.

As well as understanding Paul’s practical instructions, we must not lose sight of the fact that one day Jesus is going to present to himself a sanctified and spotless church.[5] This is the glorious hope of every redeemed man and woman. (See 2 Cor. 4:14; Col. 1:22.) In the meantime, let our relationships show that we are people who are being sanctified and purified by our Lord.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.  Jude 1:24-25 

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Footnotes

[1] Chi (from chiasm) is the Greek letter that looks like an X.

[2] Stephen Um says it is the husband’s role to sanctify his bride and make her presentable before Christ. If this is correct (and it’s not) that means that unmarried women are less sanctified than married women. There is a kind of sanctification that comes from being married to a Christian, but this sanctification has nothing to do with gender (1 Cor. 7:14).

The Bible teaches that Jesus is the Saviour and Sanctifier of men and women, and he presents the church to himself. This is the main point of Ephesians 5:22-33. Yet Stephen Um has misappropriated the salvation and sanctification that Jesus brings and ascribed it to husbands. (More about the husband’s Eph. 5 responsibilities here.)

Also, Stephen always links the word “spiritual” with the word “head,” even though the term “spiritual head” is absent in Ephesians 5. “Spiritual head” is an assumption he has read into the text. And to say that “head” has the metaphorical meaning of “leader”, as it does in English but only rarely in Koine Greek, is simplistic and inaccurate.

Furthermore, the idea that the husband is the final arbiter in difficult decisions has no biblical basis whatsoever. The only biblical precedent I can find for decision-making in marriage is in 1 Corinthians 7:5 where it speaks about husbands and wives making a mutual decision. There are some other flaws in Stephen’s message, but what is worrying is that he begins by saying, “The Bible is very, very clear . . .” implying that what he is about to say is biblical and that his interpretation is the obvious and correct one. But Ephesians 5:22-33 is not clear and I disagree with his interpretation.

[3] Paul is not speaking about men and women in general but about husbands and wives.

[4] The masculine present middle-passive participle hypotassomenoi (of the verb hypotassō: “submit”) occurs in Ephesians 5:21 (in the context of mutual submission) but in some of the most ancient Greek manuscripts, there is no participle or verb of hupotassō occurs in verse 22. The continuing theme of submission is implied but not stated verse 22. Similarly, the Greek verb for “submit” occurs in verse 24a, in reference to the church submitting to Christ, but is implied in 24b, which is about wives and husbands. It is not at all unusual in ancient Greek for a verbal idea to continue on from a word in a previous verse, or previous passage, without being re-stated. (See also my article here on a similar idea.)

Here is Ephesians 5:21-22 in the SBL Greek New Testament with my literal translation:

21 ὑποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις ἐν φόβῳ Χριστοῦ.
Submitting to one another in reverence of Christ.

22 Αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν ὡς τῷ κυρίῳ,
The wives to their own husbands as to the Lord,

The SBL Greek edition (based on many ancient Greek manuscripts) can be found here.

The oldest papyrus that we have of these verses is Papyrus 46 (third century), and it does not have a verb or participle of hypotassō in Ephesians 5:22, nor does Codex Vaticanus (fourth century). Most modern critical texts of the Greek New Testament, likewise, do not have a “submit” word in verse 22.
Note however that Codex Sinaiticus (fourth century) includes the verb hypotassesthōsan (a form of hypotassō) in Ephesians 5:22, and Codex Claromantanus (sixth century) includes the verb hypotassesthe. Stephanus’s 1550 text, a forerunner of the Textus Receptus also contains hypotassesthe. The new Tyndale House Greek New Testament includes hypotassesthōsan. (See here for information about textual variants in Eph. 5:22. My articles on the Greek grammar of Eph. 5:22 are here.)

[5] It is important to note that only Jesus is mentioned in the verses about sanctification in Ephesians 5:22-33. A husband cannot “cleanse” his wife. A husband does not act as saviour or sanctifier. (More on this here.) A good husband acts as cherisher and nurturer.

Further Reading

I am indebted to Kristen Rosser for her three-part series where she points out that marriage is not an illustration or model of Christ and the church.  More on this here and here and here.

Related Articles

Kephalē and “Male Headship” in Paul’s Letters 
All articles about kephalē (“head”) in Paul’s letters, here.
All articles on Ephesians 5:22-33, here.
Ephesians 5:22-33, in a Nutshell 
The Responsibilities of Husbands in Ephesians 5
Fear or Respect in Christian Marriage (Eph. 5:33)?
The Household Codes are about Power, not Gender
A Suitable Helper in Genesis 2 
Submission in Marriage
Submission and Respect from Wives in 1 Peter 3:1-6
Submission and Respect from Husbands in 1 Peter 3:7-8

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

68 thoughts on “Paul’s Main Point in Ephesians 5:22-33

  1. Great post! I never even knew about a chiasm before. What are the other examples of a chiasm in scripture that you know of?

  2. There are numerous chiasms in Scripture. Some are only a couple of verses long. Some people think entire books of the Old Testament (such as Leviticus) may be chiasms.

    My favourite chiasm is the creed (or hymn) of Philippians 2.
    https://margmowczko.com/christian-theology/the-creed-of-philippians-2/

  3. Thanks so much for the endorsement, Marg! I love the way you’ve presented this!

  4. My pleasure! And thanks. 🙂

  5. Marg, I’ve read about chiasms, but you do such a great job of explaining it! Thank you for helping me understand something I’ve been trying to grasp for a long time. As usual, you make a lot of sense. 😀

  6. Thanks Becky. I’m working on an article about the chiasm in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 at the moment.

  7. Hi Marg,
    what do you think it means when it says “wives should submit to their husbands in everything”. Do you have a study on the Greek word for “submit”? I couldn’t find it, sorry.

    Some conservatives would argue the woman would have to agree with everything the husband wanted, as she is required to “submit in everything” where as when it speaks to the church in general, it simply says “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

    What are your thoughts on this?
    Thanks 🙂

  8. Hi Judy,

    On the three occasions that Paul writes directly to wives telling them to submit to their husbands he adds a phrase about the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m not exactly sure of the full significance, but I do believe that Paul adds these phrases to qualify a wife’s submission in some way. For instance, I do not believe that wives submitting “as to the Lord” (Eph 5:22) or “as the Church submits to Christ” (Eph 5:24) or “as is fitting in the Lord” (Col 3:18) means that wives are obligated to submit to a husband’s harmful, selfish, silly or sinful requests or behaviour.

    In Titus, Paul gives his reason for wifely submission as cultural: “so that no one will malign the Word of God (Titus 2:5 cf 1 Tim 6:1). In Greco-Roman society, which was patriarchal, unilateral wifely submission was the ideal. Paul didn’t want rebellious, Cretan wives making Christianity look bad. In our society equality is the cultural ideal, so Christians who emphasize one-sided submission from wives are causing the Word of God to be maligned: the very thing Paul wanted to avoid.

    In 1 Peter 3:1 Peter gives the reason for wifely submission as evangelistic: “so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.” So Peter’s instructions here were not written with Christian marriage in mind.

    As for the phrase “in every thing” in Ephesians 5:24: It is important to note that the Greek word for “every” and “all” is often used relatively in the New Testament. That is, it doesn’t always mean positively, absolutely “every” and “all”. I believe that Paul wanted wives to be submissive to their husbands in every area of their lives in a general sense, not just in some select areas, but there is no reason for women to ignore their own conscience, intellect, volition, needs or desires. The Bible commends several women who went against their husbands wishes and disobeyed authorities.

    I also do not believe that Christian submission necessarily implies that the person we are submitting to (deferring to) is the leader or boss (Eph 5:21). Mutual submission is the ideal. (Even in the mutual submission verse there is a qualifying phrase about Jesus Christ.)

    I think any wife, or husband, who is being considerate, humble, loyal, caring and deferential is being submissive. Too many churches exaggerate submission in an unhealthy way. More here: https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/submission-in-marriage/

  9. Thanks Marg 🙂 It’s an interesting discussion as quite a few comps now would also clarify that it doesn’t include enabling sin and abuse.

    Can you direct me again to the article please about the Bible commending women going against a husbands wishes when say they were dangerous or immoral?

    Thanks

  10. Abigail went against her husband’s wishes because what he wanted was dangerous. Rebekah went against her husband Isaac’s wishes by helping Jacob to get the first-born blessing instead of Esau. Jael went against her husband Heber’s wishes when she assassinated a man who her husband had made an alliance with. Isaac and Heber weren’t doing anything immoral, etc, but other Bible women disobeyed rulers who did dangerous and immoral things. (The New Testament says we need to obey governing authorities but this is not emphasized nearly as much as wifely submission.)

    “Several holy women went against authority figures, disobeyed laws, and disregarded the wishes of their own husbands. Shiphrah and Puah disobeyed Pharaoh’s command, and God blessed them for their disobedience (Exod. 1:15–21). Rebekah, Abigail, and Jael went against their husband’s wishes. There is no hint of censure against Rebekah in the Bible (Gen. 27:1–28:2), Abigail was commended for her wise and brave actions (1 Sam. 25), and Jael is praised in Judges 4 and 5. Queen Esther, in order to save the Jewish people, disobeyed a law and risked her life by coming into her husband’s presence without being summoned (Esth. 4:11; 5:1).”
    From here: https://margmowczko.com/submission-respect-1-peter-3_1-6/

    And even though Sarah is put forward as an example of wifely submission she didn’t submit to Abraham’s wishes to keep Ishmael.

    More on the double standards in pushing for wifely submission but not submission to governing authorities: https://margmowczko.com/submission-double-standards/

  11. Hi Marg, I have been wanting to linger longer at your site for a while, but never got around to it. I’m so glad I am now able to, and must say I am enjoying it.

    I have a question. Can you give me a reference or more information about Ephesians 5:22 and the missing verb? Some people are disputing it, and I want to be able to support the argument with references.

    Thanks!

  12. Sure. In older Greek manuscripts the masculine present middle/passive participle hupotassomenoi (of the verb hupotassō) occurs in Ephesians 5:21, but no participle or verb of hupotassō occurs in verse 22. The continuing theme of submission is implied but not stated verse 22.

    It is not uncommon in Greek grammar for an unstated verb or verbal idea, etc, to be understood from preceding verses. (See also my article here on a similar idea.)

    Here is Ephesians 5:21-22 in the SBL Greek New Testament with my literal translation:

    21 ὑποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις ἐν φόβῳ Χριστοῦ.
    Submitting to one another in reverence of Christ.

    22 Αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν ὡς τῷ κυρίῳ,
    The wives to their own husbands as to the Lord,

    The SBL Greek edition (based on many ancient Greek papyri and manuscripts) can be found here.

    Note, however, that in this version, the 1550 Textus Receptus (based on a few much handled, and not very ancient, manuscripts) a participle of hupotassō, hupotassesthe, has been inserted in the text to help with comprehension. (Hupotassesthōsan is found in verse 22 of some texts such as the Codex Sinaiticus.)

    One of the oldest papyri that we have of these verses is Papyri 46 and it does not have a participle (or verb, etc) for hupotassō in verse 22.

    The critical apparatus (technical information at the bottom of the page) of many Greek New Testaments supply this information, but it can be a bit difficult to follow.

    There are a few variants for verse 22. However, whether stated or implied, mutual submission to one another and to one’s own husband is clearly the message in these two verses. Hupotassō, whether in verbal or participial form, means being submissive, cooperative, allied, loyal, etc, These are good qualities to have in marriage. More on this here.

    I hope this helps.

  13. Thanks, Marg. Is it OK if I quote you?

  14. Yes, that’s fine. It was a good question of your’s and I have edited my article to include most of my answer as endnote 5 of the article.

  15. I am glad you pointed out Um’s mistakes. His teaching needs to be repudiated, it is simply not Christlike. I have learned to beware teachings that start with “The Bible is very clear…” as it is often an indication that it is not, but that the speaker thinks it is. His teaching is a mixture of truth and falsehood and we need to be discerning, thanks for your help in that.

    One minor point I have is that your article discusses a truncated pericope, where it is truncated both at the start and end, the pericope goes from Eph 5:15-6:9. Truncating pericopes is one of the ways to take Scripture out of its immediate context and thereby manipulating what God intends to be taught. When a comp like Um does this, I disagree with his premise that this is a good way to proceed, as it is not. It allows Um to not discuss relevant text in the pericope as God gave it to us that is crucial to a good understanding of what is going on in this section. I see the best response to bad teachings like Um’s to show in all relevant ways where he botches it.

  16. The participles in Ephesians 5:19-20 and hupotassomeoi in 5:21 expand on the verb “be filled” in Ephesians 5:18. “Be filled with the Spirit” is a key thought here. There are key thoughts in Ephesians 5:15 and 17 too. However, I’d prefer to read Ephesians 5:22-33 beginning with Ephesians 5:1-2. (Sacrificial, Christ-like love isn’t just for husbands; Ephesians 5:1-2.)

    And the passage continues after Ephesians 5 with instructions for other members of the household in Ephesians 6:1-9.

    Nevertheless, amidst the instructions about how to live as people filled with the Spirit is some wonderful theology about Jesus Christ and his beloved church.

    Update: I’ve written about the Greek grammar of Ephesians 5:21-22 here.

  17. I love the way this was researched and written. God is a God of empowerment and order. No man is a real man if he has to cling to a single passage that has been often misconstrued. Both parties in a marriage should consider one another out of love not obligation.

  18. I have gained so much from these posts. I am a convinced egalitarian from other sources, and now this.
    May I offer an alternate composition of the tensions?
    In many of your articles you seem to emphasize the point of no male headship/female submission. I don’t think you need to do that in order to emphasize Christian mutuality. Here’s why.

    In the body, we are all 1 Cor 12:1-13 demonstrators of the Spirit. Whether greek or Jew, slave or free, (male or female) we are all demonstrating the Spirit of God. So, as regards our life in the body and the life of Christ among us, we are all able to demonstrate the life of Jesus in any context so that His fullness is on display.

    And that is my point. His fullness is also compatibly on display in marriage. Marriage is a picture of the fullness of Jesus. He is indeed a head with a body. A body whom he defers to, serves, loves, cares for, regards with total respect. His body yields to His leadership because of the greatness of His care for her. The human role of husband and wife can demonstrate this in their house. BUT when they are engaged in Church life, they are deferring together to the great Head, Jesus, and receiving His ministry and ministering it out to each other so that all may grow in all ways into Him who is the head, even Christ, through the working of each individual member (male and female) (Eph 4:15,16).

    So, in summary, I don’t think it is necessary to argue for marital equality to somehow defend Christian equality, as both are compatible and necessary for the full display of Christ. When I am a husband, I show off Jesus by how I serve and nurture my wife. When I am in Christian ministry, I defer to the Christ coming out of any person, male or female, greek or Jew.

    Thanks for the hard work! I have received so much from these, and this point has stuck out to me, and now I shared it.

  19. Hi – I’m probably way out of my depth here with you guys being experts at the Bible, but I believe one of the key things to note is, no matter how we interpret wives submitting to husbands, the husband must love his wife as Christ loves us (the church).

    How Jesus practically demonstrated love is often a chasm away from how some Christian husbands believe they should love their wives and this has always challenged me – “How did Jesus love the church? … and how should I love my wife based on His example?”

    Anyway, an inspiring article – many thanks!

    1. Great comment, Tim. Jesus can be a tough act to follow in some respects. Nevertheless, he is our example and our role model.

      The whole chapter begins with a call to love as Jesus loved: “. . . walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2 ESV). But just in case some of the men didn’t think it applied to their relationships with their wives, Paul highlights the giving of self, and sacrificial love, specifically from husbands to wives, later in the chapter.

      I read this today:
      “Paul teaches husbands to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25). Agape [love] is giving up one’s own desires for the best good of another. What a fine definition of submission! Respect and honor from the wife and true agape love from the husband are descriptions of the mutual submission expected of all Christians in relationships (compare verses 21 and 33).”
      Deborah M. Gill and Barbara Cavaness, God’s Women—Then and Now (Springfield, MO: Grace & Truth, 2004, 2009) (Kindle Locations 1741-1744).

  20. Woefully insufficient. Women are not to be pastors and elders. This article seems like an attempt to justify the contrary.

    tsk
    tsk

    1. This article is about marriage.

      Ephesians 5:22-33 has nothing whatsoever to do with pastors, elders, or church leadership, either male or female, and neither has this article.

      If you think this article is about church leadership, then you will indeed find it woefully insufficient.

      (Please read the article more carefully if you wish to comment again. This comment is very close to being off-topic.)

    2. Not so slick @mattslick

  21. I actually still don’t get it…. when it talks about Christ presenting the church holy and husbands washing their wives with the word it looks like because Christ does this husbands should.

    Maybe the veil needs to come off my eyes. It’s hard to read this differently

  22. What I see right now is husbands love like Christ loved. Just as christ washes the church with the word so is the role of the husbands.
    Like the Husband is a Preist.
    I don’t believe this feels right and I notice somthing fishy that my mind is having a hard time reinterpreting

    1. Hi Adrienne, the key is to look at the actual instructions to husbands. Husbands are not told to save, wash, or cleanse. That’s Jesus’ role.

      Husbands are told to love (vs 25a, 28) and be united to their wives (vs 31). Note also that husbands are not told to lead.

  23. It’s fishy that my mind has a hard time reading the passage in a new perspective even though I feel like the Husband being a Preist to the wife is off

    1. No one who truly belongs to Jesus needs a priest, because Jesus is the only and ultimate priest and mediator.

  24. If my wife says “turn right,” and I say “No, the map says to turn left;” how do we “mutually submit” to each other?
    Answer: You can’t. It’s impossible.
    Please stop perpetuating this myth, it is doing damage to gender relations as God commanded it.
    As a husband, I no more “submit” to my wife than Christ did to the church.
    The church didn’t get a week to tell Jesus what to do.
    Jesus didn’t “mutually submit” to Peter’s plan of earthly salvation for Christ; he rebuked Peter with the strongest rebuke ever of a disciple.
    No, as the husband and head, I can choose to PREFER my wife, as Christ did the church; but never to submit.

    1. What happens if you say “turn right” and your wife says, “No, the map says to turn left”?

      Does this scenario even have anything to do with submission? I’d say it has more to do with who is looking at the map and the ability of the map reader.

      Mutual submission to one another is a biblical concept (Eph. 5:21). The scriptures, however, don’t speak about mutual submission between us and Jesus.

      Also, I’m not suggesting you are not the “head” and your wife is not the “body,” but I have a feeling we have a different understanding of how Paul used “head” and “body” in Ephesians 5:22ff.

      I personally find it difficult to imagine how someone who prefers their wife above himself (if this is what you mean, as per Rom. 12:10 and Phil. 2:3ff) has never submitted to her wishes or needs.

      Mutual submission works in my relationships, particularly in my marriage of over 35 years.

    2. Just another thing. It’s important not to enlarge the parameters of Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5:21-33 and regard it as defining “gender relations as God commanded it.”

      Ephesians 5:22-33 is about husbands and wives, and about Jesus and his church. It does not cover all gender relations, as the following verses in Ephesians 6:1-9 demonstrate. (I’ve written about wives, mothers and masters in the New Testament household codes here.)

      Also, do you accept Ephesians 6:5 as timeless and mandatory? I don’t. I thank God for agencies working to free slaves. I pray that all people will have freedom and safety. Furthermore, I pray that all hierarchies and castes, including any based on gender, will be abolished.

    3. Michael, you seem to be mixing up the concepts of submission and obedience. You want your wife to obey you (turn the correct way) because you know what the map says. If she knew what the map said and you didn’t, then you should obey (follow her directions) as to which way to turn.

      This has nothing to do with submission, though. Submission is about putting the needs of others above your own. The Bible does not give husbands a pass on this.

    4. When my wife and I are driving somewhere, we often alternate driving stretches of about 2 hours and then switch. The driver is directly in charge of avoiding accidents and the other is the navigator, looking out for hazards that the driver may not see. The point is it is a team effort.

      As Marg points out, whomever is holding the map is usually assumed to have better information about the route, regardless of whether the map holder is male or female.

      I think part of the problem in understanding these verses is that submission is not understood as to what it can entail. Sure, one example of a way to submit is to obey; but that is not the only way, it is a larger concept. For example, a parent submits to a crying baby by feeding and changing it and searching for a reason for them crying until they stop.

      Look to all the “one another” verses in the Bible to see how submission can work out in practice.

  25. Marg,
    My wife and I have experienced some heavy conflict on this subject, specifically who makes the final decision at the end of the day when an empass remains? And how can a decision be made without risking resentment from the other? I value her input; however, what if I disagree? We seem to be battling over different perspectives. Not wrong, just different. Yet these differences have stalemated a decision-making process. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Bryan,

      I’m perplexed by your question. Are you having a real argument about decision-making in a hypothetical argument?

      In my marriage, very few decisions need to be made, and the vast majority of these few decisions are extremely mundane and certainly not worth arguing over.

      On the rare occasion where an important decision needs to be made, there is usually one spouse:
      ~ more qualified about the matter at hand
      ~ more experienced on the matter at hand
      ~ more affected by the outcome of the decision
      ~ more concerned or passionate about the outcome of the decision.

      In my marriage, the wishes of the person with more “mores” is usually heeded. This is not a decision-making process, but kindness and common sense.

      I’ve been married for 35 years and I only remember having to make two important decisions. One was about the school to send our children to, a decision which I was more concerned about. The other was about moving to a different area, a decision which my husband was more passionate about. There were discussions, but no conflict.

      If a decision results in the resentment of one spouse, then it is either a bad decision, or there are other factors at play.

      Ephesians 5:22-33 has nothing to say about who makes decisions. Chapter 5 is all about emulating the sacrificial love of Jesus and living as spirit-filled people (Eph. 5:1ff).

      If I were you, I would stop arguing about who has the final decision, and take each situation as it comes. I would also find ways of bringing a real sense of consideration, mutual support, respect, security, and especially unity, into your marriage.

    2. Bryan, reducing marriage decisions to a matrix of who has final say isn’t how marriage works. It’s not in the Bible and it isn’t part of the original design. You might appreciate the insights in Marriage is Not a Democracy.

      1. My hubby and I have been married 37.5 years and have 8 children and we have yet to see the big decision scenario. I blogged about this if you’re interested: http://thepriscillaprincipleblog.blogspot.com/2016/10/the-big-decision.html

        1. Thanks for chiming in, Tim and Tricia, and adding useful links.

          1. My husband and I have been married for 11 happy years and *have* had a big important decision to make that we could not agree on. It was a matter of opinions and therefore there was no correct or incorrect answer. We’re both emphatically passionate and knowledgeable on the subject and the outcome equally effects us both. This is not a hypothetical situation. It is an actual situation. I deferred to my husband’s option *only* because the Bible teaches wives to submit to their husbands. Otherwise we would have reached an empass on a decision that had to be made. That’s my experience.

          2. That’s one way of making a decision. Another way is that the husband gives himself up for his wife and, out of love, care and consideration, defers to his wife.

            It’s not rocket science. Most issues in relationships can be solved with kindness, consideration and common sense.

            I defer to my husband for lots of reasons. While the instructions for wives to be submissive to their husbands are scriptural injunctions, I do it mainly because I love and respect him and I want him to be happy. And he defers to me for the same reasons. Mutual submission is also a scriptural injunction.

          3. Love does no harm. Since we each thoroughly believe each of the other’s choice would be a source of harm, we cannot choose to decide the proposition of the other on the basis of love. We each believe our spouse’s decision will result in harm. The reason I go with my husband’s decision is because he is the head of our marriage. This also brings me peace because even though the decision, in my personal estimation, will result in harm. I nonetheless am ultimatly obeying God by obeying my husband and can still experience peace of conscience. If it were an equal choice, one of us would have to suffer with the guilt of the decision.

          4. If love does no harm, why do you believe your spouse’s decison will result in harm?

            I acquiesce, defer to and submit to my husband’s ideas because of my love for him. Love is the greatest commandment. Love is the fulfillment of the law. One of the major themes of Ephesians chapter 5 is Christ-like sacrifical love. Love covers the instructions for submission. Love covers all the New Testament instructions.

            I’m glad your marriage is happy. So is mine, and there is no guilt.

            I trust my husband and he trusts me (Proverbs 31:11).

            PS, the Bible does not say the husband is the head of a marriage. The husband is the head of his wife who is the body. It’s a metaphor of unity.

          5. I believe what I believe because throughout my life I have had experiences to bring me to the beliefs I have. And my husband has had his own personal life experiences that cause him to believe things that may be the same as me or different. We are actually different human beings. For one Christian something may be sin that is not sin to another Christian. I obviously have first hand knowledge with my own situation, but just thinking of all the differences in the world of humanity I can imagine this kind of thing happens all the time in marriage. What happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object? It’s all well and nice for you to be like “we’ll just love/wish our way out of making this decision!” But it’s also a little naive!

          6. Abigail, we;ve been married 29 1/2 years and never loved/wished ourselves out of any decision making impasse. What we have done is worked through it, and it tales hard work. But if my wife ever said she thought I was making a wrong decision yet was letting me make it because I’m the husband I’d not appreciate it at all.

            There is no scriptural passage that says it’s OK for wives to say “I told him it was wrong but he thought differently, so I stopped trying to convince him and let him do it because he’s the husband. I’m off the hook.” It’s just not in the Bible. The submission language doesn’t cover that situation in any way that the Bible’s other passages on wives and husbands would support.

            Of course, you have the freedom in Christ to organize your marriage that way if you like. It’s just not what the Bible says a marriage HAS to be like.

            Cheers,
            Tim

          7. Then you aren’t allowing for the fact that my husband (who is also a Christian) considers my proposition to be a very wrongful thing. So, I must try to fight him on the subject until he sees it my way because God will not forgive me if I don’t. But he believes my choice would be wrong (and therefore sinful). So if he doesn’t convince me and instead goes along with my decision, then he is not off the hook for “loving me”. Is he?

          8. My experience is that if both people feel like that then the decision is best put off.

          9. The so-called complementarian model is the wife submits to the husband’s “final decision” and then is not held to the same level of accountability and responsibility for the decision. This is wrong on both counts, as I see it. An adult is to be responsible for their decisions, including decisions to defer to another. If you REALLY think something is going to be harmful, you do not get a pass, you continue to argue for your position or you change your thinking about it being harmful, perhaps by going to a mediator or counselor.

          10. Hi Abigail,

            It seems you have a different view of love than I do, or than Jesus does.

            Love is not wishful thinking. As I said, love is the fulfilment of the law. Love is what God wants of us (Matthew 22:37-40). Love is evidence that we are true disciples of Jesus (John 13:34-35). And Jesus wants our obedience to him to be motivated primarily by love (John 14:15). Love is also key in Ephesians 5:1-33.

            Furthermore, love is the primary motivation behind God’s actions towards us, including his plan of salvation (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; etc). God is love (1 John 4:8). Is God naive? Is God engaging in wishful thinking? Of course not.

            I’m happy if you’re happy. Perhaps you should let other Christians be happy in their marriages without finding faults that aren’t there.

  26. *sigh*

    Marriage was always, first and foremost, a structure designed to restrain the nature of both men AND women within the confines of what is best for The Church. If we are going to “interpret” this passage in new and interesting ways, then it is perfectly permissible to discuss it in these terms.

    Remember that for most of recorded history, people were not only illiterate, but uneducated. Thus, a structure was required that was simple and could be communicated through simple ideas that would be understood by the uneducated masses.

    Women, for example, generally do not have an instinct for loyalty. They have an instinct for self preservation and caring, but not loyalty (without recompense). Men generally don’t have an instinct for self preservation (beyond basic survival) and actually have an instinct for self sacrifice, when it comes to their mates and children, and by extension, their society. To a man, The Titanic is a either a horror show or a heroic tale.. to a woman, it is romantic. FYI, what I just said here is not controversial among anthropologists or biologists. There is a totally different hormonal mechanism of attachment in males and females, and this is how it manifests in behavior. This is a behavior that is true for humans, and is true for most higher primates as well. So, the ancients saw this just through looking with their eyes at the outcomes around them.. they didn’t need micro biology and sophisticated structures of academia to see all of this.. and so they created Patriarchy. Re: Potiphar’s wife, for example.

    Why? Because men DO all the things. Men dig ditches, men sling bricks, men chop down trees, and this is still true today. Men run everything that underlies society, and woman are not clamoring for deep mining, lumberjack or crab fishing jobs. And that is how it has been since time immemorial. Therefore, since men DO all the things, men should have the authority. The ancients knew this, but we seem to have lost our way.

    In a religious context, as above, Ephesians 21-33 is very, very clear about this. In fact it could just as easily be said that Paul spent so little time on “Wives, submit to your husbands’ because it was so patently obvious that this was necessary for a healthy family to be produced, in order to grow The Church, and hence, society and civilization. There is no scenario where women have the freedom to have a career that isn’t going to lower fertility rates.. and in the old days, when only one or two out of 6 children survived to adulthood, this would have been a death sentence for a culture.

    Yes OF COURSE a man should love and cherish his wife, and treat her well. He should take care of her needs, both personal and spiritual, to the best of his ability. The point is that if the man is being asked to be a leader, he must be given the authority to lead. A leader is not equal to those being led. That means the FINAL say in any family or marital matter. Period. If you disrupt that, and in the past 100 years we have not only disrupted that, but destroyed it, then you will see a degradation of marriage a destruction of the family, as it has been practiced for thousands of years by millions of God fearing people’s. Men will stop caring about women and family if they get no respect or authority for their sacrifice. And make no mistake, it is men who are doing the sacrificing here, as they are the ones working 60+ hour weeks, grinding themselves down for decades to provide their wives and children with a good life. In the best case, a wife supports her husband, respects her husband, and takes care of all of his needs as best that she can, especially when she doesn’t want to, because that is the test we all must pass to go through the gates of heaven. But that is nearly gone now.

    Paul knew this. It is unfortunate that he had no way of knowing how off the rails things could become in the future, therefore he didn’t clarify this in such a way that it couldn’t be interpreted away in a puff of illogical thinking.

    1. Bob, the fact that you ended your post with the following: “because that is the test we all must pass to go through the gates of heaven” serves to invalidate everything else you just said. There is no litmus test for salvation by any kind of behavior…..only Romans 10:9. The word of God was inspired and while the author certainly took into account cultural norms at the time, you can bet that the Holy Spirit can still use the text to inspire us in our current cultural situation. I think you’ve bypassed the mark wildly in an attempt to normalize God’s word and intentions through your own cultural manifesto.

    2. BobSlpine is you are still out there. This comment is a few years old, but have to say that the “let THEM have dominion…” language in Gen. 1:26-28 shows both male and female have exact same authority. So your point that men should have final say is negated. You say women don’t have the instinct for loyalty? Tell that to the women who were last at the cross and first to the tomb while the male apostles ran away, denied, and betrayed Jesus, and did not believe the witness of the women when Jesus appeared to them first. You say men do everything? Up until very recently, women weren’t allowed to do anything and we’re literally considered property of husbands by law. Thousands of years of patriarchy will do that. And women are still the primary caregivers of children and elderly whether they work or not. And you say men should have the final say? Women should have the final say since we have more of the burden of caring for people. And you say men do all the self sacrifice? That’s a load of horse apples. Women still had to care for everyone else no matter if we have more rights or not. You bring up the Titanic and male self sacrifice? There was a paper published not long that looked at historical evidence was the “women and children first..” mantra in several shipwrecks over the last couple centuries and the Titanic was an anomaly. In most shipwrecks recorded more women and children perished or were trampled by bigger and stronger people (read males) to get in the life boats. Chivalry died a long time ago. Anyway everything you wrote is your own personal bias and not biblical, scientific, or historical.

  27. Thank you so much for this post! It gave me a new insight into Ephesians 5 and about Christianity in general. What you wrote makes a lot of sense to me both intuitively and logically. I’ve always struggled with it.

    1. Hi Lee,

      Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:22-33 are actually wonderful. He effectively tells husbands to lay down the privilege and power they had in Greco-Roman society and to live sacrificially and lovingly with their wives.

      It’s all about yielding and unity. But the authority-obsessed church has turned Paul’s words into a treatise upholding male authority. It’s very sad. No wonder people have struggled with this passage; the church has misunderstood Paul’s words and his heart.

  28. Hi Marg,

    Just trying to wrap my head around all these scriptures where wives are told to “submit” and “respect” their husbands. You’ve provided great articles for each in their context. Still, it seems a bit conspicuous…wives are always told to submit and husbands to love (I know we are also told to submit to each other and love one another too). But no wonder this was what I was told our “roles” are in premarital counseling. I am still struggling with this, trying to tie up lose ends.

    I was considering the Proverbs 31 woman (who was married)–she worked hard and earned her own, and we don’t see anything about her submitting to anyone but the Lord in that passage. And we have many instances of hard-working woman exercising authority throughout scripture.

    Now looking at this bit of scripture, with the picture of Christ and the Body, and thinking about “source” (head) and the word “nourish” here, I have had a new thought…could it be that Paul (and Peter elsewhere) are trying to remind wives that if their husband is the bread-winner (which was highly likely back then) then they ought to show them some respect for their hard work? Fair enough, right? But not necessarily a command as a “role”. Could this be a way to explain these instructions for wives to submit and respect their husbands?

    1. Hi Gina,

      I reject the idea that Paul addresses the relationships in Ephesians 5 and 6 as “roles”. They are relationships.

      It was expected in first-century Greco-Roman society that (free-born) wives be submissive to their (free-born) husbands or the senior male in the family if her husband wasn’t the senior male. It was more complicated for slave couples or freed couples, but everyone in the family submitted to the senior male. (In some cases, a woman, such as Lydia or Nympha, was the senior householder, and it was required that she be submitted to and obeyed by the other household members.)

      It was expected that children (including, or especially, grown children) obey their parents, both mothers and fathers. And it was expected that slaves (both male and female) obey their masters (both male and female). This was what society was like back then. It was highly stratified and everyone submitted to or obeyed someone else, or multiple people, higher up on the social pecking order.

      Christianity was a small movement when Paul and Peter wrote. They could not tell wives not to be submissive, they could not tell grown children and slaves not to be obedient. It would have been disastrous for the new movement. God and the gospel would have been blasphemed (Titus 2:5; 1 Tim. 6:1). What Paul does instead is reframe the relationships.

      Wives, who generally speaking, but not always, had little power in society, are still told to submit, but not because of society or because of male authority, but because of the Lord. But husbands are nowhere told to be leaders or the bosses. Instead, all Christian husbands, whether the senior male or not, are told to love, to yield, and to nurture. Paul reframes Christian marriage as being about love, unity and yielding. These are the themes of Ephesians 5, beginning in verse 1.

      Paul still tells slaves to obey, but he reframes the relationship of Christian slaves and masters. Paul referred to masters and to slaves as beloved brothers/sisters (Philemon 1:16; 1 Timothy 6:2). And he tells masters to be “fair“.

      But back to your question: The term “bread-winner” doesn’t fit well in NT times. If a family was on the poor side, which probably was most families, everyone worked, even children. If a family was rich, no one had to work, but the senior male was regarded as a kind of patron. Basically, what Paul was saying to the first-century Ephesians is difficult, if not impossible, to apply in the way Paul envisaged it would be applied.

      What we can take from Ephesians 5, however, is that all Christians are to love as Jesus loved, and all Christians are to be submissive to each other. (More about this here.) I really wish we paid as much attention to the first half of Ephesians 5 as the second half. But we seem to focus on applying the second half rather than the first half.

      Also, Peter tells husbands to respect their wives. (More about 1 Peter 3 here.)

      I don’t think my ramblings are much help. Sorry.

      1. Thanks, Marg. I found some other articles in addition to the ones you linked to here, and I’m getting a better understanding now. Your knowledge of the culture and language really is helpful.

        It is an excellent point that Paul never calls husbands leaders. It makes sense that Christians were just being told to be orderly and respectful members of society.

        From what I have seen, these roles have only caused harm, pain, grief…it is too easy to abuse. I’ve been married nearly 10 years, and my husband is usually reluctant to “be the leader”, so we have never followed these prescribed roles anyway! And now I’m convinced that this was never Paul and Peter’s intention in the first place!

        1. I agree: the traditional interpretation of the wifely-submission verses has caused so much pain and oppression. So that’s a fair indicator that the interpretation is faulty.

  29. This great article. Can i qoute some of words here for my bible study group.

    1. Sure, Dan.
      And please tell your group that they can find more info on my website.

  30. Thank you for the very detailed and clear explanation. I gained understanding. Thank you so much.

  31. Why stop at Eph 5:33 then? Going into Eph 6, Paul is continuing along the same thought train, isn’t he? He talks about children and parents, followed by Masters and slaves.. There is a constant theme of one party being the head or having authority in this section of scripture.. How do you interpret that?

    1. Hi Anil,

      Ephesians 5:22-33 is the focus of this blog post, but I look at Paul’s instructions to wives/husbands, children/parents and slaves/masters here.

      The first-century Greco-Roman world, including households, was highly stratified along lines of power. And Paul’s words are designed to temper this imbalance of power and the abuses that often come with it.

      Hierarchical power structures, where one group has more power than another group, simply because of their social status, is the opposite of what Jesus taught and of what Paul wanted in the community of God’s people. Paul’s words were not designed to reinforce power structures. I’m very sorry that you read it that way.

      I recommend this 23-minute sermon on Ephesians chapter 5-6.

  32. “However, we must never lose sight of Paul’s main point here: One day Jesus is going to present to himself a sanctified and spotless Church. This is the glorious hope of every Christian man and woman.”

    This doesn’t seem like Paul’s main point on a straight read-through of the passage. Yes, you can see that when you do an in-depth study of the chiasm, but the whole section of Ephesians 5:15-6:9 is a block of instructions for Christian life.

    5:15-21 being filled by the Spirit leads to certain behaviors, including submitting to one another.
    So how should we submit? Here are some specific relationships:
    5:22-23 Wives need to submit to their husbands the same as the Church does to Christ. We see in 5:33 this specifically entails respect and implies following leadership.
    5:24-30 Husbands need to submit their desires for the sake of loving their wives, just like Christ for the Church. We love because Christ loved us. Christ is always the initiator and leader and Lord for Christians. Christ takes action to draw the church to be more righteous and like Him. So husbands should draw their wives to be more righteous, more like them.
    5:29-32 And by the way, this analogy works both ways. The oneness of husbands and wives is a good example of a believer’s oneness with Christ.
    5:33 Back on topic of submitting to each other, husbands love and wives respect
    6:1-4 Still talking about submitting, children submit to their parents’ leadership. Fathers submit what they may want to do (get in arguments) for the sake of their kids’ greater good.
    6:5-9 Still talking about submitting, slaves submit to their Master’s authority. Master’s submit “their right” to abuse their slaves because the masters have a master of their own.

    So it is apparent that what you claim as “Paul’s main point” is actually an aside in 5:29-32. An aside to the main point of how submission operates in marriage.

    “I am indebted to Kristen Rosser for her three-part series where she points out that marriage is not an illustration or model of Christ and the church.”

    The whole point of this passage (contrary to what your article claims) is that Christ’s relations with the Church models good behavior for husbands and wives:
    “Wives, submit… AS to the Lord” “the husband is the head of the wife AS Christ is the head of the church” “Husbands love your wives JUST AS Christ loved the church”

    Really, this whole section of Ephesians is a lot easier to read and understand if we are willing to submit as God designed.

    1. Hi Ben,

      Like you, I also think submission is an overall theme of Ephesians 5:22-33. The passage is prefaced by an instruction for believers to be mutually submissive to one another. I am all for being submissive.

      I’m not sure why you brought masters and slaves into the discussion, though. Were slave masters designed by God to be masters? Were slaves designed to be slaves? Aristotle would say “yes,” but I disagree. I hope you will read this short article here.

      I agree, however, that a straight read-through of Ephesians 5:22-33 may focus solely, or mainly, on marriage. However, the chiasm does not make the passage easy to read for people who are not used to chiasms, and chiasms don’t lend themselves to straight read-throughs in a linear fashion. A straight read-through is not necessarily the best way to treat this passage.

      Because too many people focus only on marriage, I chose to write this article to bring out Paul’s point about Jesus and our future. It is a main point, an important point, that should not be overlooked. But I have written other articles on Ephesians 5:22-33 that focus more on husbands and wives. Here’s a short one: https://margmowczko.com/ephesians-522-33-in-a-nutshell/ I hope you will read it.

      Paul does not give marriage as a model of the relationship between Christ and the church. Rather, he gives the relationship between Christ and the Church as a model for marriage. I hope that many marriages may reflect this model, and yet they aren’t the model.

      Anyway, I stand by my statement: “Paul’s main message here is not just about marriage; it is also about Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:27, 32).” And, “. . . there is important advice for husbands and wives in this passage, and by reading Ephesians 22-23 as chiasm we gain a better understanding of Paul’s instructions and what he meant by the wife being submissive and the husband being the ‘head.'”

      (I’ve made a few edits in the article to make my intention plainer.)

      1. I included slaves and masters because that’s the context. Paul is going through a set of six examples of how it looks to “submit to one another” in different stations of life: wife, husband, child, father, slave, and master.

        I did read those other two articles. It seems that the bulk of your position on this issue depends on the definition of kephale (head). You claim in multiple locations that kephale in the metaphorical sense of these verses means “source” rather than “leader” or “authority.”

        If that claim is true, then most of your views in this post are pretty solid. If not, this article and several others are quite incorrect. So I thought it merited some research. This article is from 1985, but I doubt the THOROUGH exegetical analysis has become outdated. Please give it a read:
        https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/tj/kephale_grudem.pdf

        If you can’t take the time to read it, the conclusion is that there are no instances AT ALL of kephale meaning “source” in New Testament era Greek, but it was used from time to time to mean “ruler” or “authority”.

        1. Hi Ben,

          The article on this page is about the chiasm in Ephesians 5:22-33. I think this is clear. It’s not about the “household codes,” as such, and I’ve written about them elsewhere on my site.

          Do you agree with Aristotle that slaves and masters (including female masters) are designed for their station in life? I don’t. This is why I’m unclear about a couple of your sentences about “design.” Also, the verb for “be submissive” used in Ephesians 5:21 & 24 is not used in chapter 6 for parents-children and masters-slaves. Rather, the verb in Ephesians 6:1 & 5 means “obey.”

          The theme of submission, as such, does not continue in chapter 6, and the message of Christ’s sanctifying work does not continue in chapter 6, even though the “household code” continues where Paul seeks to mitigate the potential for abuse of those who had power in the Greco-Roman society.

          I’ve read Grudem’s article several times. In fact, I’ve read all three of his papers (1986, 1990 and 2001) on kephalē. I’ve also read the papers of several scholars who have responded and disagreed with his papers. Several ancient Christian scholars who actually spoke ancient Greek, scholars such as Athanasius and Chrysostom, also disagree with Grudem’s general claim.

          Kephalē rarely, if ever, meant “ruler” or “authority” in works originally written in Greek before or during the first century AD. Most, but not all, Greek and NT scholars acknowledge this.

          I’ve written about kephalē in the context of 1 Corinthians 11:3, and cite the work of many ancient and modern scholars, here: https://margmowczko.com/head-kephale-does-not-mean-leader-1-corinthians-11_3/

          I’m surprised by this statement of yours: “I did read those other two articles. It seems that the bulk of your position on this issue depends on the definition of kephale (head). You claim in multiple locations that kephale in the metaphorical sense of these verses means ‘source’ . . .”
          For the record, I have never said that I believe kephalē means “source” in Ephesians 5:23. I don’t believe this. In fact, I don’t even mention “head” or kephalē in my article about wives, mothers and female masters. Are you reading my actual words? Because you’re not understanding my actual thoughts.

          Anyway, we may have to agree to disagree on some of the finer points of Ephesians 5 even if we are in broad agreement about mutual submission.

  33. Hi Marg

    The study I am leading on Women in Christianity includes an exploration of the conflicting messages 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35; Ephesians 5:18 to 6:9; ans 1 Timothy 2:8-15. I have drawn on the work of Ian Paul, you and several others referenced by both you and Ian Paul.

    The Chiastic Analysis was fascinating and most helpful. You may recall that I used a simpler version in the class on Noah and the Flood to get the concept over before moving onto your analysis of Ephesians.

    One thought has crossed my mind recently in connection with the church at Ephesus. I believe from what I have read that Priscilla and Aquila were founders of the church at Ephesus after accompanying path there around 51CE. What I find strange is that in all of the work that I have studied in connection with the letters to Ephesians and 1 Timothy, none of the scholars refer directly to the work of Priscilla in founding/leading the church. I have some articles which explore the possibility that Paul was concerned that some women were “running ahead” of men in the early church (1 Timothy) as they had no experience of leadership. When I think of all the great named women in leadership in the early church, Lydia, Phoebe, Priscilla, Junia, Euodia, Syntyche and others, I am shocked that none of the scholars have mentioned this in connection with their commentaries on Ephesians 5 and 1 Timothy 2 other than in the most generic way and certainly not connecting Priscilla to the church leadership at Ephesus. it seems that Priscilla and Aquila arrived in Ephesus (possibly around 51-52CE). I note that Timothy was with Paul at Ephesus during the Paul’s second mission to Ephesus (54-57 CE) and was appointed to lead the church around 64CE. If this is the case, then Priscilla in leadership at Ephesus would have been known before Timothy was appointed and hence when 1 Timothy was written. I wonder why this is not mentioned in the commentaries I have read and would value your thoughts.

    1. I can’t see a reason to think that Priscilla and Aquila were the founders of the church at Ephesus. Acts 18 gives no indication that Priscilla, Aquila and Paul were the first Christians to arrive at Ephesus. If anything, Acts 18 seems to indicate that it was not unusual for Christian preachers and apostles such as Apollos and Paul to pass through Ephesus. Also, Paul later spent three years in Ephesus strengthening the church (Acts 20:31).

      Priscilla strikes me as a competent person. And I have little doubt that, at some point, she was a leader in the church at Ephesus (and at Rome). https://margmowczko.com/women-elders-new-testament/

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