Where Does Ephesians 5:21 Belong?

I.

In my latest Selected Sunday Scriptures post, commenter A Vistor said this:

If I ever get married, the wife and I are going to have our Gospel reading starting at Ephesians 5:21.

I asked him if he meant Ephesians 5:22 instead, which prompted Mrs. C to ask:

Why would Eph 5:21 not be included in the Gospel reading of husband and wife?

She then linked to this article, containing material written by Pope John Paul II.

Mrs. C’s question is a good one, and covers a subject I’ve been meaning to address for a while. Time limitations will necessarily keep this post shorter than I should look, but I will try and answer her first question, as well as a second about what “mutual subjection” looks like for the Church as a whole.

II.

The short answer to Mrs. C’s question is this: Ephesians 5:21 doesn’t belong with the epistle reading of husband and wife because for most of the Church’s history they were considered two separate subjects (pun intended). By that I mean they were not considered to fit together as part of the same message by St. Paul. [Update: I wasn’t clear here. Sorry about that. I was trying to say that while both are related, they are not tied together as, say, verses 25 and 26. 5:21 is distinct from 5:22 in terms of what St. Paul was teaching overall. They relate, yes, but 5:22-33 encapsulates a specific point that St. Paul was trying to teach. Further edits will be in brackets but without the bold update notice.]

Now, most modern translations will include Eph 5:21 along with 5:22 and the rest of Chapter 5 of Ephesians. However, this is a recent phenomenon. As far as my research has yielded, including 5:21 and 5:22 together is less than a century old. Older translations did not do so. [Update: I was wrong about this. KMan in the comments below indicates that translations linking them go back at least 150 years.] For example, the Douay-Rheims edition of the New Testament (1899) included 5:21 in this section:

15 See therefore, brethren, how you walk circumspectly: not as unwise,

16 But as wise: redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Wherefore become not unwise, but understanding what is the will of God.

18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is luxury; but be ye filled with the holy Spirit,

19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord;

20 Giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God and the Father:

21 Being subject one to another, in the fear of Christ.

(Eph 5:18-21, DR 1899)

Verse 21 is included as part of the previous passage, concerning the church as a whole. It is the closing admonition of St. Paul’s “children of light” message, a reminder to always serve one another.

Looking further back, the Daily Missal of the Catholic Church pre-1962 had proscribed passages for different events, including matrimonial ceremonies. Guess what the epistle passage was? That’s right, Ephesians 5:22-33. Ephesians 5:21 was not included with the verses following it. That was the Missal in use for centuries, perhaps all the way back to the Council of Trent (if someone knows otherwise please clarify that for me).

The recognition that Ephesians 5:21 and 5:22 were separate thoughts goes even further back, however. In fact, it not only predates the split between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, but extends all the way to the early Fathers of the Church. Saint John Chrysostom, who became Archbishop of Constantinople in 397 AD and is recognized as a Doctor of the Church, wrote extensive homilies on various books from the Bible. Many of them were preserved and are accessible today. His homilies on the Letter to the Ephesians are among those preserved. These homilies are sequential and touch upon different passages within Ephesians, including Chapter 5.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that St. John Chrysostom addressed 5:21 in a separate homily, which covered Ephesians 5:15-21. Reading through his homily, it seems fairly clear that the Saint regarded Ephesians 5:21 as connected to the verses above it, not to the verses which came after. This is also apparent in the next homily, which covers Ephesians 5:22-33, which he saw as a single message. The saint likes to reference previous applicable passages, but he doesn’t in that homily; Ephesians 5:21 never shows up at all. To St. John Chrysostom, Ephesians 5:21 and 5:22 did not belong together; otherwise said, Ephesians 5:21, while an important teaching, was not one that should be included in St. Paul’s teaching on matrimony.

For those interested, you can find those two homilies here:

Homily 19 on Ephesians (5;21)

Homily 20 on Ephesians (5:22)

They are not easy homilies to read, but well worth it in my opinion. I might showcase some of Homily 20 in future posts, it is that good.

So, taken together, the evidence is clear that Ephesians 5:21 was, for the longest time, recognized as being in a separate passage in Chapter 5 of Ephesians from verse 22. It is only recently that verse 21 has been stuck with verse 22. Now, I don’t know for sure why this was done. But my suspicion is that it wasn’t accidental. If anything, I suspect that the purpose was to weaken 5:22. Maybe not explicitly, but the modern translations which render 5:21 as a separate sentence can only serve to confuse the lay reader about the rest of that chapter.

III.

This brings me to the second question asked by Mrs. C:

I would like to ask you to define what it means in a practical way for the church body as a whole to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

I promised to answer that, and will in this section. Although the truth is that I won’t be the one with the answer. Rather, it will be the aforementioned Doctor of the Church who I will draw from. He addresses 5;21 at the end of his 19th Homily on Ephesians, which I will quote below. Be warned: it is a long, dense paragraph. But if you can get through it you will see how he understood Eph 5:21. Here it is:

Subjecting yourselves one to another, he says, in the fear of Christ. For if you submit yourself for a ruler’s sake, or for money’s sake, or from respectfulness, much more from the fear of Christ. Let there be an interchange of service and submission. For then will there be no such thing as slavish service. Let not one sit down in the rank of a freeman, and the other in the rank of a slave; rather it were better that both masters and slaves be servants to one another—far better to be a slave in this way than free in any other; as will be evident from hence. Suppose the case of a man who should have an hundred slaves, and he should in no way serve them; and suppose again a different case, of an hundred friends, all waiting upon one another. Which will lead the happier life? Which with the greater pleasure, with the more enjoyment? In the one case there is no anger, no provocation, no wrath, nor anything else of the kind whatever; in the other all is fear and apprehension. In the one case too the whole is forced, in the other is of free choice. In the one case they serve one another because they are forced to do so, in the other with mutual gratification. Thus does God will it to be; for this He washed His disciples’ feet. Nay more, if you have a mind to examine the matter nicely, there is indeed on the part of masters a return of service. For what if pride suffer not that return of service to appear? Yet if the slave on the one hand render his bodily service, and thou maintain that body, and supply it with food and clothing and shoes, this is an exchange of service: because unless thou render your service as well, neither will he render his, but will be free, and no law will compel him to do it if he is not supported. If this then is the case with servants, where is the absurdity, if it should also become the case with free men. Subjecting yourselves in the fear, says he, of Christ. How great then the obligation, when we shall also have a reward. But he does not choose to submit himself to you? However do thou submit yourself; not simply yield, but submit yourself. Entertain this feeling towards all, as if all were your masters. For thus shall you soon have all as your slaves, enslaved to you with the most abject slavery. For you will then more surely make them yours, when without receiving anything of theirs, thou of yourself renderest them of your own. This is subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ, in order that we may subdue all the passions, be servants of God, and preserve the love we owe to one another. And then shall we be able also to be counted worthy of the lovingkindness which comes of God, through the grace and mercies of His only-begotten Son, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, might, honor, now and forever and ever. Amen.

As I said, lengthy. The Saint’s interpretation of St. Paul is that we are charged to the service, given freely, of fellow believers whenever and however possible. It is a reminder that we are all co-heirs of eternal life with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

IV.

So, in summary, [in an epistle reading] Ephesians 5:21 belongs with the verses above it, as they address how the members of the church are to relate to one another in general. It does not fit deal specifically with marriage, which is the case for Ephesians 5:22-33.  In addition, the context for understanding 5:21 is not [fully] present later in the chapter, but rather earlier. Ephesians 5:21 advises us to live out lives of continuous service to one another, always subjecting/subordinating our needs and desires to those of our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is universally applicable to all Christians, man and woman alike, married and unmarried. What Ephesians 5:22-33 articulates is how marriage is a step beyond this requirement, with special obligations and duties of both spouses that go beyond the “mere” subjection/subordination of our interests to our fellow Christians.[Hence, a marriage epistle reading should begin with 5:22, not 5:21. If you want to include 5:21 in the reading you should begin with 5:15 or even earlier.]

At best inclusion of Ephesians 5:21 in the epistle on marriage will only serve to distract or confuse the Scriptural message about marriage. At worst it will serve to undermine the message.

Update: Mrs. C has created her own post in response to this one, which you can find here. Be sure and give it a read.

Advertisements

72 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Churchianity, God, Marriage, The Church

72 responses to “Where Does Ephesians 5:21 Belong?

  1. mdavid

    Nova,

    We’ve got rid of the entire master/slave relationship altogether. Bit if it were to return, it would be as Paul says. We haven’t “evolved” the master-slave relationship, merely killed it.

    We have not abolished husband and wife (yet). Therefore, Paul’s views stand for the Christian. Hence, the egalitarian view is false.

  2. Novaseeker

    We’ve got rid of the entire master/slave relationship altogether. Bit if it were to return, it would be as Paul says. We haven’t “evolved” the master-slave relationship, merely killed it.

    We have not abolished husband and wife (yet). Therefore, Paul’s views stand for the Christian. Hence, the egalitarian view is false.

    I’m not saying there aren’t counters.

    A stronger one than that one, I think, is the explicit metaphor with the Church that Paul makes elsewhere, which is not really “time-specific”. My point is, rather, that drawing parallels between the way Paul treats master/slave relationships and the way he treats husband/wife relationships, which is what was said upthread (not by you, mind you), creates a rickety basis for an argument, particularly in the contemporary context. Among other things, let us suppose that the culture does abandon marriage altogether, and kill it? Egalitarianism would follow, per that line of thought (i.e., “the difference is that slavery is no longer, whereas marriage still exists”), since marriage would have been “killed”, just as is the case with slavery. Of course, that can’t be the case, because marriage isn’t like slavery — I get that, obviously! — but the argument opens itself up to a big critique with a lot of common currency in this age when any kind of parallel between the two things is drawn. It invites a line of attack that is quite obvious, it seems to me, and one which is quite convincing to a lot of people without much further thought.

    Frankly, it seems that the better argument (in terms of not being subject to a very obvious and broadly appealing attack) is that marriage is simply sui generis, is not comparable with other relationships, is not to be seen as a common theme with slavery relationships, and is modeled on the ecclesia, and vice versa, and is therefore a core part of Christian life (as is the Church itself), and it is this which forms the basis of Christian teaching on marriage and husbands and wives — rather than saying that Paul’s teaching on marriage was simply explaining how Christians were supposed to live in marriages that existed in a world that took as a given a one-sided hierarchy in Roman marriage, and is therefore akin to what he wrote about masters and slaves.

    I just think it’s not a good argument. Note that I am not disagreeing with the general drift of 5:21 and 5:22 as has been argued in this thread, but I do think that the specific arguments chosen to support that drift are important — critical, really — and that some are subject to a more common (or commonly accepted) critique than others are.

  3. Mrs. C

    @infowarrior

    In the spirit of the words in the Scriptures that say “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” and because I’m not theologically trained, I’ll try to answer your questions.

    “How is putting others before yourself subjecting yourselves to them? Explain.”

    You are making the decision to sacrifice your wants/needs/desires by subjecting them to the wants/needs/desires of the other person. Your free will is where your authority lies. You make the decision to put yourself first or the other. To put yourself first in relation to another, is authority over the other persons wants/needs/desires. You decide their needs are subjected to yours. To put the other first, is to subject your needs under theirs. It is not by their authority, your needs are subjected, it’s by yours, therefore, you have subjected yourself.

    “DId Christ subject himself to the church by being sacrificial for it?”

    As we are talking Divine/human relations rather than human/human , and as I said, I’m not a theologian, it would seem that He subjected Himself in obedience to His Father’s will to send Him and offered Himself as the sacrifice that Divine Justice required for our sins. Being Divine Himself, he didn’t regard equality with the Father as something to be grasped, as we are told.

    In the limits of language in talking about the inner workings of God, I would say He subjected Himself to the Father for the sake of all people. The Church was born of the water and blood that flowed forth from His side when pierced after He died on the cross. The individuals who are obedient to Him in recognition of His sacrifice are the Church. Christ subjected Himself for the Church, not to her.

    In Divine Justice for Christ’s humble obedience to the Father, He gave Christ, “”All authority in heaven and on earth” In honor of Christ’s sacrifice for the Church, the Church owes her obedience. Christ commands “Do unto others as I have done for you.” This is how we are obedient.

    As a Catholic, I believe that Christ gave Peter authority as the head of the Church. The Church is led by the Holy Spirit and can dispense grace through the sacraments. We believe to be obedient to the Church is to be obedient to Christ.

    “Christ was sacrificial to the church in obedience to the will of his father.”

    It seems He was sacrificial FOR the Church…

    Could not man be sacrificial in obedience to God in relation to his wife?

    A husband is called to sacrificially love His wife in obedience to Christ who commanded “Do unto others as I have done for you.” His obedience to Christ, honors the sacrifice Christ made for Him. In a sense, Christ didn’t grasp for equality with the Father so we shouldn’t grasp for final authority over another. Hence, “be subject.” One of the reasons we shouldn’t grasp for final authority over another human, is that “it is an unjustified demand which no human being can fulfill” as St. Edith Stein said.

  4. Feminine But Not Feminist

    @ Mrs C

    You seem to be missing one very crucial thing… a wife is commanded to submit to her husband AS UNTO THE LORD. It doesn’t matter that her husband is a mere human and not Christ Himself ~ as long as he isn’t telling her to do something that is sinful, she is to submit/obey, end of story. Now, I realize you understand this concept, because I’ve seen you say it plenty of times already. Problem is, (and please correct me if I’m misunderstanding you), you seem to me to be saying that since a husband is a mere human and not Christ Himself, that he doesn’t have the right to have complete authority over another human being, including his wife… which doesn’t match up with Scripture, as I’ve already pointed out. A husband and wife are one flesh, which is so very different than any other kind of relationship out there (which I’m sure you know). Because of this, he does have the right to have complete authority over her, because she is now bone-of-his-bone and flesh-of-his-flesh. So it makes no sense to say that he must subject himself to her, considering she is part of him, and that he would be taking care of THEIR needs (the two become one, so their needs -but not necessarily their wants- also become one in the same).

  5. Mrs. C

    Novaseeker “In other words, we no longer endorse categories of slave and free (even though Paul and St. John addressed how those in such conditions should behave towards each other in a Christian sense), so why should we continue to endorse the categories of husband and wife as they are portrayed in Ephesians 22 et seq (in terms of head and submission), rather than simply reverting to 21?

    Because of Eph 23, in that husband/wife are to be Christ as Head and Church as Body. It’s the only relationship, in which two become one flesh who make three, which mirrors the Trinity. The sexual union is the relationship that sets it apart from the others. Just as the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, through the Son to the Church,
    The man’s seed proceeds from Him, through his body, to the woman. Just as the Church receives the Holy Spirit and restores to God His people as children of God in Baptism, the woman receives the seed, and returns it to her husband as their child. Just as Christians we are called to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the water of the Holy Spirit, Christians husbands and wives, literally “make disciples of all nations.” Head/submission in the sexual union is “the head gives, the woman receives and gives in return.”

    To quote from one of my blog posts

    “St. John Paul II said that “God in His deepest mystery is not a solitude, but a family, since He has in Himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love.” He is not like a family, He is a family. Marriage and family life are a mirror that reflect who God is. This is why Adam was lonely. He was a solitude until Eve was made from bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. All through history, God has called us to join in family life with him. We are adopted into His family by Baptism.”

    you said “In other words, yes, Paul was Christianizing, or rather, reinterpreting in a Christian way, the relationship of subjection between husband and wife that existed among non-Christians in his age.”

    No, Paul was preaching truth in Christ Jesus. The truth of how husband/wife are the image of God. Two become one flesh and make three.

  6. Mrs. C

    FBNF,

    You seem to be missing one very crucial thing… a wife is commanded to submit to her husband AS UNTO THE LORD. It doesn’t matter that her husband is a mere human and not Christ Himself ~ as long as he isn’t telling her to do something that is sinful, she is to submit/obey, end of story.

    Scripture says Christ sacrificially loved us by dying for us. Our obedience honors Christ’s sacrificial love. Scripture also says the husband is to love the wife as Christ loves the Church. How does the husband love his wife? As Christ does, sacrificially. How does the wife honor that sacrificial love? Obedience. That is submitting AS UNTO THE LORD.

    If you interpret, AS UNTO THE LORD, meaning the obedience to final authority, then the model for marriage would be God the Father as Head, (perfect Authority) and us as Body, (perfect obedience). Since a husband, as a human being can’t have perfect Authority and we can’t, as humans have perfect obedience, our relationship is modeled on Christ/Church. We follow Him and His perfect obedience makes up for our lack before the Father. the final authority.

    you said, “A husband and wife are one flesh, which is so very different than any other kind of relationship out there (which I’m sure you know). Because of this, he does have the right to have complete authority over her, because she is now bone-of-his-bone and flesh-of-his-flesh.”

    Bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh makes them both human. She wasn’t created by him which would give him final authority. She was fashioned out of him, meaning another human being. Adam was lonely because he was a solitude. In creating Eve, different but equal, they can become one flesh and make three, in the image of the Trinity. Adam now has a family and is not alone. God is a family.

    Fatherhood/Sonship/Essence of Family, which is love.

  7. Christina

    I’ve always considered submission as a rule of authority – not service. Husbands are just as much in service to wives as vice versa.

    We are all, as christians, to be in service to one another… but we are not (in general) in authority over eachother, excepting the cases Paul lays out in 5:22 and on.

    Because I don’t see the wife as a doormat, but a creation of God with her own gifts in the Holy spirit; that an individual wife “completes” and complements the husband as eve completes and complements adam, I see wives as having a voice in decisions. Advising, bringing attention to oversights, providing another perspective. When we do these thing to other members of the church, having no authority over them, they are not sinning by choosing to do something we had advised against (only if they are not submitting to the will of God). And we have no reason to be upset or bring them in front of the church unless outright sin is involved.

    However, in marriage, all that advising and perspective a wife brings is confined to her husband’s authority. If he chooses against her advice, perspective, and observations, she is to follow him (respect him, trust him) anyway… just as the church would do with Christ at her head.

    To me, the marriage as a symbol of Christ and the Church has been the most beautiful image in scripture (it’s the fairy tale Prince rescuing his Bride from the Fiery Dragon). Viewing marriage in the same capacity as I see my relationship with Christ has been immensely beneficial and helpful in coming to terms with, accepting, and finding peace in these verses.

  8. Mrs. C

    I think of submission this way. The Bible tells us that God is the Head of Jesus. Jesus is the Head of the husband. Husband is the head of the wife.

    If this is true, then it would follow that if God is the Head of Jesus, then Jesus would be the Body of God. The Holy Spirit would be in the Body of Jesus as the Heart. So we aren’t saying that God has a body or is a body like us, but in terms of the three Persons of the Godhead, they relate to one another like a body. Our body is an image of the relationship that the Trinity shares.

    Now, God is eternal because if at any time one of the three members of the body didn’t exist, God couldn’t exist.

    God as Head would be thought, as perfect knowledge. . Jesus as Body is is carrying out the thoughts of God. The Holy Spirit as heart is the essence of love between the Body and the Head. In a sense the Heart (love), informs both the Body and the Head in their relation to one another.

    I don’t need to tell my body with my mouth as in a ,command, what I want it to do. I don’t say “Fingers, type!”. My body functions in a sense by the thoughts that originate in my head. My thoughts are informed by my will which resides in my heart (love), my will functions in my mind as thoughts which result in actions and around it goes.

    So as the body of my husband, my obedience is carried out mostly in my “knowing” him. Meaning because I love him and know him by our communication with each other, I anticipate his wants/needs/desires, and work to (help meet) them. His communication with me is his sharing his thoughts, not just barking commands. Just as my fingers won’t type just because, I speak the works “Fingers, type!”, my obedience comes from him communicating his needs/wants/desires. These last should always be in consideration of our family’s good, as in “be subject” because you love one another, Anticipating can carrying out, is implicit submission. If my husband actually speaks to me, Honey, could you make sure my tan pants are washed for work tomorrow? My carrying this out is explicit submission. But note, he didn’t command. He made a need know to me and I helped him meet the need. (Help meet).

    But what if he did bark “Wash my work pants!” I would carry it out to honor Jesus’ sacrifice to me on the cross in obedience to his complete authority, not my husband’s complete authority. My husband doesn’t have authority to command me to do something because no more than his body will respond to him by just barking “Fingers, type!” , my obedience comes from his sacrificial love towards me which starts in his heart and mind that would have no thought of ordering the one he’s loves about. My obedience to him is a response to his sacrificial love to me.

    If he commands me anyway out of selfishness or desire for power, I have the choice to obey. Divine justice wouldn’t demand someone to carry out an insult toward themselves. You can’t tell someone to respond to someone who is sinning towards them because we aren’t obedient to sin. However, even though Divine Justice wouldn’t demand it as a response to the sinners selfishness, it would ask “Will you do it for me, because I died for you?” I would choose to respond or not, to Christ’s complete authority, not my husbands.

  9. @Novaseeker

    since we have “evolved” beyond master/slave and other subjection relationships as detailed in Chrysostom’s writings (and Paul’s)

    I don’t think we should be so quick to assume this. Certainly, we have moved beyond the cruel race-based slavery we picture from the 19th century, but the concepts of indentured servitude (the main kind of slavery in the Ancient Near East) live on. I think Paul’s instructions about masters/slaves still very much applies to bosses/workers today, and the differences are not so many.

    Most people today cannot afford to buy a home outright, so they get a loan from a bank and effectively become indentured to that bank – they must work nearly full time to be able to meet the demands of the bank, and if they stop working the bank will take their assets and pursue them for losses in court, and the defaulter may be jailed if they try to evade this. Sure, the bank does not directly say what job they must do, but the end result is very similar. That person must usually work for a boss, somewhere, and do what he/she says or face the consequences. In many cultures today workers are still expected to put their work above every other commitment (family, etc.)

  10. @Mrs C.
    ”You are making the decision to sacrifice your wants/needs/desires by subjecting them to the wants/needs/desires of the other person. Your free will is where your authority lies. You make the decision to put yourself first or the other. To put yourself first in relation to another, is authority over the other persons wants/needs/desires. You decide their needs are subjected to yours. To put the other first, is to subject your needs under theirs. It is not by their authority, your needs are subjected, it’s by yours, therefore, you have subjected yourself.”
    To quote yourself:
    ”Christ subjected Himself for the Church, not to her.”
    Since the model of marriage is the relation between Christ and Church.
    Then likewise the Husband subjects himself for the wife, not to her.Like a shepherd of sheep so the Husband is to his wife taking into accounts her wants and needs and doing what’s best for her but not necessarily her wants some of which may be harmful. I may be splitting hairs but we need to define this very clearly lest the subversives and weasels twist the scriptures to their purposes too easily.

  11. Mrs. C

    @infowarrior Since the model of marriage is the relation between Christ and Church.Then likewise the Husband subjects himself for the wife, not to her.Like a shepherd of sheep so the Husband is to his wife taking into accounts her wants and needs and doing what’s best for her but not necessarily her wants some of which may be harmful. I may be splitting hairs but we need to define this very clearly lest the subversives and weasels twist the scriptures to their purposes too easily.

    This is exactly right and you’re not splitting hairs. The clarification is important.

    As I said above, “To put the other first, is to subject your needs under theirs. It is not by their authority your needs are subjected, it’s by yours, therefore, you have subjected yourself.” (and to clarify it it further, I would add the words “for her sake” when speaking specifically about marriage) This has been my point all along.

    In other words, to say v21 doesn’t apply in marriage takes away the whole basis of “love another” for Christians and for marriage being a model of Christ and his Church. In marriage, this is carried out in a deeply personal way due to the “two become one flesh” relationship” but it’s not done away with just because two Christians marry. All Christians are called to love one another or in other words “be subject.” Put others before yourself.

    According to Strong’s concordance, the greek word for “be subject: is ὑποτάσσω. It means

    Short Definition: I place under, subject to
    Definition: I place under, subject to; mid, pass: I submit, put myself into subjection.

    ἀλλήλοις is the greek word used for “to one another” in V21. It seems it’s mostly translated as” to one another” but the exact same greek word has been used as “one to another”, “for one another”, “with one another”, “toward one another”.

    I would say that the husband sacrificially loving his wife definitely falls under these translations as him subjecting himself for his wife and family’s sake in a deeply personal way. If the husband is called to this and carries it out, his wife is bound to honor him with submission.

  12. Thanks for your contributions everyone. This has turned out to be an excellent discussion, one of the better one’s I’ve had on this blog.

    Oh, and Mrs. C, I just got around to updating the OP to include the link to your post on the subject. Sorry for the delay, I’ve been busy and forgot to get around to it sooner.

  13. Mrs. C

    @DG- Thank you for the link up. That was kind of you. This discussion was a good one. It stayed on topic and civil. ….and I learned some Greek so that was great!

  14. @Mrs. C said:
    If he commands me anyway out of selfishness or desire for power, I have the choice to obey. Divine justice wouldn’t demand someone to carry out an insult toward themselves. You can’t tell someone to respond to someone who is sinning towards them because we aren’t obedient to sin.

    If your desire is to be obedient to God, you do not have the choice to obey your husband (as if it’s your call), rather, you have the choice to obey God or rebel against God. You say, “Divine Justice wouldn’t demand someone to carry out an insult toward themselves.” This is incorrect because God did command that of the wives.

    You also said I would say that the husband sacrificially loving his wife definitely falls under these translations as him subjecting himself for his wife and family’s sake in a deeply personal way. If the husband is called to this and carries it out, his wife is bound to honor him with submission.

    This is the feminist reframe that sets up the idea that if *you* don’t think he’s sacrificially loving you (regardless of what *other* type of love you need) then you are *not* bound to honor him with submission. His sacrificial love may entail getting up every day to be a wage slave in order that your children might have a better life. The problem is, who gets to decide whether his “sacrifice” is truly a sacrifice?

    This is wrong in so many ways. First, you do not honor your husband with submission, you honor the Lord because HE commanded you to submit. Second, as one under his authority, who are you, wife, to judge your husband? God has already spoken in this matter.

    Please turn your attention to 1st Peter 3:1-2

    “In the same way you wives, (a direct reference to the previous passage concerning masters and servants, which sheds a great deal of light on this passage) be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.”

    Your choice is to be obedient or be rebellious.

    Any other point of view and you’ve set yourself up as the judge of his behavior, judging whether he is loving you like Christ loves the church. BTW- in looking for examples of how Christ loves His church that a husband can emulate, have you looked at Revelation 3:19?

    Since this is basically a catholic blog, I won’t try to explain covenant theology in terms of why Ephesians 5:21 is not part of the instruction to the family. However, if it was, it would have the effect of negating the following passage in which Paul explains the authority of the husband over the wife, an authority system set up by God that existed since Genesis 2:24. If you had any serious interest in this, I suggest you compare Numbers 16 with the “Ephesians 5:21 is context” argument. “We’re equal in Christ and we are both to submit to each other, so who are you to lord it over me” is remarkably similar to Korah’s argument in Numbers 16: “All the assembly is holy and the Lord is in our midst, who then are you to exalt yourself over the assembly of the Lord?”

    Notice that God killed all of them for challenging His authority structure, so I’d say that answer ‘kills’ the idea the husband is to be in submission to his wife. But let’s carry it one step further. Would you then make the claim that the master is to be in submission to his servants? Keep in mind, Christ came to this world to live and die as a man in order to fulfill the will of His Father. He was being obedient to the Father, submitting to the Father’s will. We are the beneficiaries of said submission and sacrifice, but Christ does not submit to His church.

  15. Mrs. C

    Actually, I’d like to address something you said over at the Society of Phineas blog because we won’t ever be able to have a real discussion of Scripture because it would just be a dual of your personal interpretation against an interpretation of covenant theology that has been been developed over 2000 years. You are performing a sort of Scriptural gymnastics to fit Scripture into your desire for wanting a master/slave relationship with your wife. You also seem to ignore Scriptures that refute your master/servant analogy.

    You said “The relationship between Christ and His church is a master-servant relationship. Thus, per Ephesians 5:22-24, the relationship between husband and wife is a master-servant relationship. This is reinforced by 1st Peter 3:1, which begins with “Therefore” or “In the same way” and that directly references the previous instruction to masters and servants. 1st Peter 3:6 says the wife has become one of Sarah’s daughters if she can call her husband “master” without being bothered by any fear.”

    Let’s look at 1 Peter 2: 18 “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.

    If we look at the passage following this instruction to the servants, Peter goes on to give a reason for why he is saying this in 19-25. Basically, if Christ who was sinless, willingly suffered for us, who are we, sinners as we are, to to not endure the suffering that comes to us from others even when we are doing right. If we do this, we will find favor with God because we are following Christ as our example.

    19For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

    Next comes the verse you quoted by pointing out the words “in the same way” before the instructions to wives. “In the same way” refers to how a wife lives out vs 19 – 25. It doesn’t mean that wives are servants to their master husbands.

    “1In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.…”

    What do we have next after the instructions to wives. Let’s read.

    You husbands IN THE SAME WAY live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

    Well by your definition of “in the same way” referring to masters/servants, husbands would live as a servant to their master wives. No. This isn’t right either. This is why I don’t accept your interpretation. He tells husbands how to live vs 19-25.

    Following all this, Peter sums up how we are all to treat each other.

    To sum up, ALL OF YOU be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.…

    **********************************************************************************************

    Let’s talk about Sarah. The verses you referred to in which she calls her husband lord. You said “1st Peter 3:6 says the wife has become one of Sarah’s daughters if she can call her husband “master” without being bothered by any fear.”

    The Hebrew word for lord in Genesis when Sarah called Abraham lord was adon. Here is what wiki says”

    “In Ancient Semitic religion, specifically Canaanite religion, the term Adon (ʾdwn, Hebrew אדון, from a triliteral “hollow” root D-I-N or D-W-N, cognate with Akkadian adannu “mighty”[citation needed]), literally “lord, patron”, has been in use as a theonym from the Late Bronze Age at least, contrasting with Ba`al “master”.

    Also according to Strong’s Concordance adon was used as master, lord. husband among other uses. Strong’s specifically notes the use of lord by Sarah to mean husband. Translations use the lower case l to signify the difference between Lord, as in God and lord as in a person in a specific role.

    Here’s the verse for reference “For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. ”

    Let me tell you why Sarah could refer to her husband as lord without fear. She was a free woman and not a slave. I will quote Scott Hahn, a Catholic theologian.

    “One interesting fact that you might not be aware of — what is the Hebrew word for husband? There are different words, but one very common word for husband is Baal. Interesting, isn’t it? You see, there were two different kinds of marriages in the Old Testament. You can see this reflected in Galatians 4, where Paul says, “You desire to be under the law. Don’t you hear the law, for it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman.” You see he had two sons because he had what? Two marriages. One by a slave woman, Hagar, and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh. The son of the free woman through promise. Then he goes on to show how Hagar, the slave wife, the concubine, bore Ishmael and how Sarah, the free wife, the first wife, the only wife Abraham was supposed to have, bore Isaac, the child of promise.

    You see, back in the ancient times, if you were a husband, if you were a man, you were a patriarchal figure and you wanted to extend your own power and influence, you wanted to acquire more power, you used sex. You would multiply concubines because in multiplying wives or concubine slave women, you would be multiplying slaves, because all of the children they would have would be, in effect, your slaves later on. So Hagar bore children for slavery, whereas Sarah bore Abraham children for freedom. Sarah would address Abraham as “‘adon,” the word for husband in Hebrew that a free woman would utter; whereas Hagar would describe Abraham as “Ba’ali,” my “Baal,” my master, my Lord husband, because a concubine understood that she was owned by her husband. Two forms of marriage — one for freedom and the other one for slavery.

    And in Hosea 2:16 we read the prophecy to Israel, how the relationship will be changed from master to husband. “And in that day says the Lord, you will call me ‘my husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘my Baal’ for I will remove the names of the Baals from your mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more. And I will make for you a covenant on that day, and I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice and in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. You shall know the Lord.”

    The prophesy of Christ the Redeemer in the New Covenant in Isaiah 54:10 also reflects this.

    “”Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name, and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; the God of the whole earth he is called. For the Lord has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love, I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer. For this is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Is 54:4-10).”

    God clearly demonstrates that when the Redeemer comes, his covenant relationship with his people will be of a different nature than we see in the Old Testament. It is personal, gathered to Him in compassion, not angry, not rebuking, steadfast and everlasting in love, a peaceful and merciful covenant. He says “You shall know the Lord.”

  16. Mrs. C

    @AT “BTW- in looking for examples of how Christ loves His church that a husband can emulate, have you looked at Revelation 3:19?”

    “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.”

    You seem to be quite fond of this scripture as some kind of proof that husbands have a right to punish their wives (even administer corporal punishment) when they sin so as to bring their hearts back to the Lord. This is a way to love them.

    The Lord will allow us certain sufferings in this life if it is useful in transforming us to be more like him as his follower or as a way to turn our sinful hearts back towards Him.

    This is a spiritual principle for suffering. But when we have any verse of Scripture, we have to hold it up to the rest of Scripture to give us light in how exactly this applies in the Christian life.

    I’m not going to list them all here, but here are a few.

    “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” Gal 6:1

    “24The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:24-26

    “15”If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16″But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.…17″If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.…”

    This is how all Christians, not just husbands towards wives, attempt to bring back their brothers and sisters who have fallen. You wrongly hold the view that husbands can implement corporal punishment (spank their wives). Does that mean a pastor of a church can use corporal punishment for members of their own flock? Would you submit to corporal punishment from your pastor? No, I don’t believe you would and we don’t see that suggested to the churches as a way to correct.

    You also said ” as one under his authority, who are you, wife, to judge your husband? God has already spoken in this matter.

    God does not make the Christian woman, deaf, mute and blind upon Christian marriage. If her husband is in sin, she most certainly can judge his behavior as sinful, and present it to him gently as all Christians are called to do, while at the same time giving good example by her behavior, so as to bring him back. If a pastor is in sin, does his flock not judge this? Do they let him continue to lead them? Should they blindly follow due to being under his authority?

    “The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments,”

  17. Mrs. C: I dispute almost everything you’ve said in the thread, but just a couple of points. Perhaps you forget the authority of the Church to punish heretics, corporally as well as spiritually. And yes, of course if a parish priest, or a bishop, or a Pope, is an infamous sinner, those under him remain under him and subject to his authority, whatever that authority covers. You forget that authority is not earned from the subject, but granted by God.

  18. Mrs. C

    @ Nicholas “Perhaps you forget the authority of the Church to punish heretics, corporally as well as spiritually. And yes, of course if a parish priest, or a bishop, or a Pope, is an infamous sinner, those under him remain under him and subject to his authority, whatever that authority covers. You forget that authority is not earned from the subject, but granted by God.”

    I’ll start with your last point. Yes, as long as a priest, bishop, or Pope is a sinner, the faithful are still to assume that the Eucharist is still valid and absolution in the confessional, as well as any other grace conferred by the Sacraments. They are also under obligation to follow instruction as long as they are not teaching contrary to the teachings of the Church. However, if the faithful of the parish should see the priest living in serious sin, they still have a mind to know and judge sin when they see it. They can even gently confront him. They can appeal to the Bishop and let him know. The Bishop can remove him if he, by his sin, is unfit to lead. Authority is not earned but it can be taken away if warranted. The point AT was making was that a wife being under authority cannot make judgements about her husbands behavior. That is hogwash. If he tells her to lick his feet with her tongue is she to do it? No, she decides this is not leadership that is under God but of the man’s. She is not bound by it. If her husband is under sin with a drinking or gambling problem, does she pour him another drink when he asks for one or hand over the grocery money so he can go gamble? No. If he’s a little grouchy and tired, and barks “wash my work clothes for tomorrow”, does she do it?

    Yes, she should. Because it says “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” Even if he’s uncharitable in how he requests help for his needs, she should do it to honor Christ’s suffering for her.

    If he says to submit to a spanking because the work clothes weren’t washed in a timely manner, does she do it? Heck no.

    As to the Church punishing heretics, there was a time in Church history when in cooperation with the state (who took on the role of requiring Christianity in their land) heretics were under corporal punishment. The Church in cooperation with the state felt bound to stamp out any and all false teachings sprouting up at that time. This is the only time corporal punishment was used. It was not used for lesser matters of disobedience. This can’t be used as an example of husbands having the authority to use corporal punishment. As a matter of fact, without the Church working in cooperation with the state, this was understood as not appropriate under the new law of Christ.

    According to New Advent the Catholic Encyclopedia says…..

    (1) Though the Apostles were deeply imbued with the conviction that they must transmit the deposit of the Faith to posterity undefiled, and that any teaching at variance with their own, even if proclaimed by an angel of Heaven, would be a culpable offense, yet St. Paul did not, in the case of the heretics Alexander and Hymeneus, go back to the Old Covenant penalties of death or scourging (Deuteronomy 13:6 sqq.; 17:1 sqq.), but deemed exclusion from the communion of the Church sufficient (1 Timothy 1:20; Titus 3:10). In fact to the Christians of the first three centuries it could scarcely have occurred to assume any other attitude towards those who erred in matters of faith. Tertullian (To Scapula 2) lays down the rule:

    Humani iuris et naturalis potestatis, unicuique quod putaverit colere, nec alii obest aut prodest alterius religio. Sed nec religionis est religionem colere, quae sponte suscipi debeat, non vi.

    In other words, he tells us that the natural law authorized man to follow only the voice of individual conscience in the practice of religion, since the acceptance of religion was a matter of free will, not of compulsion. Replying to the accusation of Celsus, based on the Old Testament, that the Christians persecuted dissidents with death, burning, and torture, Origen (Against Celsus VII.26) is satisfied with explaining that one must distinguish between the law which the Jews received from Moses and that given to the Christians by Jesus; the former was binding on the Jews, the latter on the Christians. Jewish Christians, if sincere, could no longer conform to all of the Mosaic law; hence they were no longer at liberty to kill their enemies or to burn and stone violators of the Christian Law.

    St. Cyprian of Carthage, surrounded as he was by countless schismatics and undutiful Christians, also put aside the material sanction of the Old Testament, which punished with death rebellion against priesthood and the Judges. “Nunc autem, quia circumcisio spiritalis esse apud fideles servos Dei coepit, spiritali gladio superbi et contumaces necantur, dum de Ecclesia ejiciuntur” (Epistle 61, no. 4) religion being now spiritual, its sanctions take on the same character, and excommunication replaces the death of the body. Lactantius was yet smarting under the scourge of bloody persecutions, when he wrote this Divine Institutes in A.D. 308. Naturally, therefore, he stood for the most absolute freedom of religion. He writes:

    Religion being a matter of the will, it cannot be forced on anyone; in this matter it is better to employ words than blows [verbis melius quam verberibus res agenda est]. Of what use is cruelty? What has the rack to do with piety? Surely there is no connection between truth and violence, between justice and cruelty . . . . It is true that nothing is so important as religion, and one must defend it at any cost [summâ vi] . . . It is true that it must be protected, but by dying for it, not by killing others; by long-suffering, not by violence; by faith, not by crime. If you attempt to defend religion with bloodshed and torture, what you do is not defense, but desecration and insult. For nothing is so intrinsically a matter of free will as religion. (Divine Institutes V:20)

    The Christian teachers of the first three centuries insisted, as was natural for them, on complete religious liberty; furthermore, they not only urged the principle that religion could not be forced on others — a principle always adhered to by the Church in her dealings with the unbaptised — but, when comparing the Mosaic Law and the Christian religion, they taught that the latter was content with a spiritual punishment of heretics (i.e. with excommunication), while Judaism necessarily proceeded against its dissidents with torture and death.

    To read further see

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08026a.htm

  19. Authority can be taken away, but never by those who are under the authority. Only the one who delegated it can take it back to himself. If you deny this then you do not believe in authority, and have put some fiction in its place.

    There’s different kinds of judgment, which English isn’t good at distinguishing. Yes, the wife ought to judge her husband’s commands: in order to know whether obeying them is sinful. Shall she lick his feet? Yes. Submit to a spanking? Yes. Pour the drink or hand over the money? Yes. None of these are sinful, which is to say, none of them are disobedient to God, so she has no excuse for refusing. Of course, if she thinks that he is sinning, or doing anything at all that she fears will go badly, and she does not advise him about it, then she may have sinned in that. So if he wants to go gambling, she must try to persuade him away from it if she can, but if she can’t, she must not withhold what is his from him.

    You yourself cite 1 Peter 2, and follow it with a “Heck no.” Who do you think you are, that you can brazenly ignore the commands which you have decided are not “help for his needs”? There is no authority if she under it may disregard it and choose according to what she thinks is best.

    I’ll try to respond concerning the punishment of heretics later.

  20. Mrs. C

    @Nicholas “There’s different kinds of judgment, which English isn’t good at distinguishing. Yes, the wife ought to judge her husband’s commands: in order to know whether obeying them is sinful. Shall she lick his feet? Yes. Submit to a spanking? Yes. Pour the drink or hand over the money? Yes. None of these are sinful, which is to say, none of them are disobedient to God, so she has no excuse for refusing. Of course, if she thinks that he is sinning, or doing anything at all that she fears will go badly, and she does not advise him about it, then she may have sinned in that. So if he wants to go gambling, she must try to persuade him away from it if she can, but if she can’t, she must not withhold what is his from him.”

    You, sir, are woefully wrong about this. If a wife knows his drinking will lead to the children or herself getting beat or the grocery money will mean her children will have no food, she would be disobedient to Christ, in knowing the consequences, and being complicit in letting this happen. It is never required of wives to be complicit in their husbands sins. A man who is drunk or who would put his gambling before his family, is not fit to lead. In fact, if things are this out of hand with her husband, she has the responsibility before God to get herself and her kids out of this situation. Pack the bags and head out the door. Spanking a wife or her licking his feet is not within the husband’s realm of authority. There is nothing, not one thing, in degrading another human being that would fall under the command for a husband to love his wife.

    You said “You yourself cite 1 Peter 2, and follow it with a “Heck no.” Who do you think you are, that you can brazenly ignore the commands which you have decided are not “help for his needs”? ”

    I said heck no to a wife submitting to a spanking because of unwashed laundry. There is nothing in 1 Peter 2 that would warrant that she do this. I can’t brazenly ignore a command that wasn’t given in the first place.

    You said “If you deny this then you do not believe in authority, and have put some fiction in its place.”

    No, sir, you have put some fiction in place of the Scriptures. Not me.

  21. happyhen11

    Thank you Mrs. C. What excellent points! I enjoy reading your posts so much.

    Here is some St John Chrysostom, the great Golden Mouth, on marriage.

    “There is no influence more powerful than the bond of love, especially for
    husband and wife. A servant can be taught submission through fear; but even he, if provoked too much, will soon seek his escape. But one’s partner for life, the mother of one’s children, the source of one’s every joy, should never be fettered with fear and threats, but with love and patience. What kind of marriage can there be when the wife is afraid of the husband? What sort of satisfaction could a husband himself have, if he live with his wife as if she were a slave, and not with a woman by her own free will? Suffer anything for her sake, but never disgrace her, for Christ never did this with the Church.”

    “And again, never call her simply by her name, but with terms of endearment, with honor, with much love. Honor her, and she will not need honor from others;she will not want the glory that comes from others, if she enjoys that which comes from thee. Prefer her before all, on every account, both for her beauty and her discernment, and praise her. Thou wilt thus persuade her to give heed to none that are without, but to scorn all the world except for thyself. Teach her the fear of God, and all good things will flow from this as from a fountain, and the house will be full of ten thousand blessings.”

    Lord have mercy. These beautiful words bring a tear to my eye. How glorious is God in His Saints!

  22. Mrs. C

    @happyhen11

    Thank you for your kind words and for sharing this wonderful writing by St. John Chrysostom. It is indeed beautiful. May God be given the glory!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s