The Head of the Woman is Man

The Head of the Woman is Man June 25, 2015

Lucy Peppiatt WTCNotice these two verses in 1 Corinthians 11:2-3:

I praise you  for remembering me in everything  and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.  3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ,  and the head of the woman is man,  and the head of Christ is God. 

Now notice how Lucy Peppiatt renders them in her book Women and Worship at Corinth:

I praise you for remembering the traditions that I passed on to you regarding Christ as the head of man and man as the head of woman. However, I want you to know that when I say that Christ is the head of every man, and man is the head of woman, you must also understand that God is the head of Christ.

The NIV 2011 has three coordinated lines in vs. 3; Peppiatt sees tension between the first two and the third one. The emphasis that God is in charge is a theme elsewhere in the Corinthian letters (notice the church is the church of God in 1 Cor 1:2). Peppiatt sees Paul first referring to his own teachings on headship (3a, b), teachings that have been exaggerated by the males of Corinth, and then deconstructing the male drive for power by reminding them this headship goes up one step to the ultimate headship of Father of Christ.

The issue is headship and what it means. Does it mean authority over, source of, or (as Sarah Sumner argues) that which brings unity in a perfect union?

Peppiatt first brings in an important issue, one perhaps ignored: Does “head” here mean the same thing in each instance? This actually leads to a deeper question: Do we begin with the relationship of woman and man or the relationship of Father and Son?

Chrysostom, she observes, contends the term “head” cannot mean the same in each instance or we could end up with the Son being inferior to the Father. [I have “could” because we “could begin with the assumption that head over a female means the male is her authority. But do we begin there?] Furthermore, Chrysostom knows the wife is “free, equal in honor” (90). Hence, Chrysostom reads “head” here as indicating not authority over but perfect union with. It is not about precedence or hierarchy — this is Chrysostom’s stuff — but about relational unity. Cyril, too, sees three different nuances of the notions of origin and relation. Her conclusion:

Whatever “head” does mean, it does not mean that as God rules over Christ, Christ rules over man, and man rules over woman, because we cannot claim that God rules over Christ in the first place (91, italics added).

But this is how it has been read. No, correct that. It has been read the other way: Since we know a male is to be authoritative over a female, then … God [Father] must be authoritative over Christ, the Son, eternally. Many know this might suggest the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father and work havoc in the doctrine of the Trinity. But if we work the other way, as Chrysostom, Cyril and Peppiatt do here, we get an entirely different picture: Since the Father’s relation to the Son is one of perfect union eternally and a relationship of ordered love for the other, the notions of headship of Christ to the man and the man to the woman are to follow suit: they are about union and love, not hierarchy and authority. The three unions (man-woman, man-Christ, Father-Son) each has its own nuance of union, but to go toward hierarchy is to posit a doctrine of eternal subordination that the church never taught.

So, here is what she’s up to:

I am suggesting that Paul’s reference to the “head” in verse 3 is a reference to his teaching [about headship] which has been corrupted by the Corinthians, perhaps especially in a way that has allowed a group of spiritually gifted men to overidentify with the glorious Christ, leading them to become domineering and divisive, and to implement practices aimed at controlling and/or silencing the women (94).

Thus, the language of vv. 2-3 sounded familiar but Paul pulled things into a new shape with the last clause, reminding the males that God — not they — was the one who brought the church into its proper union and shape. In chp 12 Paul will proceed to speak of unity and mutual sacrifice for one another and the elevation of those parts of the body often ignored (not the authority-enhancing of those often given repute). The lowly are exalted not just made equal! (Does our reading of 1 Cor 11:2-3 fit that theology?) Peppiatt is right:  there is in Paul an “inversion of hierarchy” (96).

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  • Regarding the functional unity of head and body: a head without a heart is brain dead.

  • Brad

    I’m finding it hard not to see this as a case of presuppositions determining exegesis.

  • Except she is absolutely right about the relation of father and son. Having that mean hierarchy creates serious problems.

  • scotmcknight

    In what sense Brad?

  • patricklmitchell

    I struggle with this entire issue of male headship in the sense that it creates some sort of “you have to do what I say” mentality. When I read the Gospels, though, I can’t help but see Jesus submitting to the Father’s will with joy. If, then, a husband loves his wife as Christ the church, why wouldn’t it likewise be a good thing for him to be her head in the sense of being obedient to the will of the Father–and she following his lead? Why is this so awful?

  • Phil Miller

    Well, for one thing it presumes that the husband is more spiritually mature or aware than the wife as a matter of course. I don’t see this as something that is true by simple observation. I’ve heard people go as far to say that husbands are responsible for the spiritual lives of not only their children but their wives as well. That’s bringing all sorts of extra-Biblical opinions into the mix.

    Basically, the thing I hear complementarians saying is, “in theory this all works great!”. If a theory only applies to a small percentage of people in actual practice, than it’s a bad theory and should be abandoned and replaced.

  • patricklmitchell

    Cosmo, thanks for the reply. I don’t want to jettison the plainest interpretation for fear of abuse. And I am sure there are plenty of examples of abuse out there…I know of a few personally.

  • patricklmitchell

    Phil, thanks for the response. I suppose one could say that in theory eldership works, but in practice most churches blow it, so it should be abandoned. The problem I have is that as with the husband leading his wife in Christ-exalting love, eldership is in the New Testament. So I can’t just toss it out because it’s hard to do and some abuse it. I don’t ever purport to be more spiritually mature than my wife, but I can tell you she absolutely loves when she feels led spiritually. She’s not seminary trained as I am, so maybe that’s why she still believes in male headship;) Snarky, I know.

  • Brad

    “spiritually gifted men to overidentify with the glorious Christ, leading them to become domineering and divisive, and to implement practices aimed at controlling and/or silencing the women”. This statement sounds (to me anyway) far more informed by modern sensibilities regards gender abuse, than Paul’s thoughts on men’s/women’s roles. I’m guessing that the author wants to exonerate Paul from those who have abused this text. But doesn’t Eph 5:22-23 provide better insight into Paul’s meaning?

  • Wow, I find this interpretation very compelling! I really appreciate the Patristic sources being used in aid of the exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11:2-3.

    As a follow up question, I am curious if this translation of “head” (κεφαλή) has any cross over with Paul’s letter to the Ephesians? Specifically, Ephesians 1:22? Or does the presence of the “over” (ὑπέρ) imply more of an “authority over”/ hierarchal implication than is made in the Corinthian passage?

  • Jon45Solas

    I agree with Cosmo below that no such presumption is necessary.

    In fact, the exact opposite is the case in this command found in 1 Peter 3:1-2: “In 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, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.”

    Submission in this case is an evangelistic effort on the part of the wife. The husband is the head of his household even if the wife is a mature believer and he is unregenerate.

  • Here’s a quote from Wade Burleson on that idea: “But if your cultural preference is to find your identity in a man, then just be honest that you feel safer and more secure in the shadow of man’s identity, and if equate your submission to God to that of a visible, physical man, then just be honest about what you are doing. Don’t call it biblical Christianity.” from here:

  • Jon45Solas

    Absolutely agree. AND Ephesians 5:25-33 instructs husbands how to avoid the abuse thereof. Authority does not equate with “bad”, except when coupled with abuse, which is exactly what the Scripture addresses.

  • Hi Cosmo. It’s just bad theology contextually with the rest of the NT. Here’s a recent quote from Jamin Hubner on some of these ideas: “I have to say Chris, this is one of those areas where evangelical culture and media is extremely influential. I have encountered so many Christians who could recite Ephesians 5:22 to you by memory, but if you were to ask them if they have ever heard of Ephesians 5:21, the very previous verse which says that Christians should submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, they’ll say, “oh, no, Paul said that?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten that reaction. And I think that’s important—what certain churches have highlighted. I have asked so many Christians, “so what’s the largest chapter on marriage in the New Testament” and they’ll say, “oh, Ephesians chapter 5.” And that’s not correct and I’ll say, “well actually, it’s 1 Corinthians 7.” And they’ll say, “1 Cor. 7? Well what’s that?” It’s like that chapter doesn’t even exist in their memories. And I’ll say things like “did you know the word “submit” in Ephesians 5:22 isn’t actually there, it’s inserted by translators carrying over the word from verse 21?” And of course they’ll say, “no way, well what does Ephesians 5:21 mean?” And then I’ll ask things like, “so, did you know the only passage in the Bible that says husbands have authority over their wives is the same passage that says wives have authority over their husbands?” And, I’ll get the deer-in headlights look. And then I’ll ask things like, “did you know that almost every gender-specific command in the Bible applies to the opposite gender?” And you get the same look there too.” from here:

  • patricklmitchell

    Julie, I can find anyone to say what I want to be true on either side of a disagreement. What I don’t appreciate is you, in a passive manner, levying a charge or judgment against my wife or any other wife who genuinely feels like they are honoring the Lord and the desires of their heart by wanting their husband to take the lead in certain situations after seeking the Lord’s will together. My wife and I are at consensus on 99.9% of all family decisions we make. On the rare chance we disagree, she feels fully affirmed in her faith to yield to me as I am yielded to Christ. Again, why is this so awful?

  • It’s not biblical. Check out my quote above. And it’s really important for her to follow the Lord and hear from Him herself. You could be wrong?

  • patricklmitchell

    So what do you do with kephale and hypotasso in Eph 5? Give me your “biblical” understanding that makes more sense than the simplest interpretation. And again, point to why this is so awful in practice if you married a godly man…not a tyrant, but one who loves his wife as Christ loved the church.

  • patricklmitchell

    Julie,My wife has a vibrant relationship with the Lord. I’ve never told her, “This is how it’s going to be.” Perhaps we’re so scared of headship because of potential abuse? I’m still not sure. I could certainly be wrong, as any of us could be.

    I read the quote, by the way. It sounds like Wade’s axe to grind has to do with not letting women teach Scripture or minister within their giftedness. I don’t hold those positions–which I would assume most assume I do because I believe husbands are to lead. I welcome women to operate in their giftedness. My favorite seminary prof was Marianne Meye Thompson–phenomenal NT scholar. Saddens me she wouldn’t be allowed to teach elsewhere.

  • Jon45Solas

    Oh boy, here we go again! The ESS (eternal subordination of the Son) doctrine is entirely unnecessary to make the case for the Trinity being the model of authority for the created order of men and women. It is orthodox to view the Trinity in terms of hierarchy ad extra even if not ad intra. That is to say, the Trinity OPERATES this way in practice, even if the Trinity is not constructed this way intrinsically. No inequality among the Persons of the Trinity is in view. In fact, this ad extra view ENHANCES the comparison: no difference in intrinsic worth between the man and the woman, just authority structure in operation!

    Egalitarians, wail away on your straw man!

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I find the presupposition is determining the exegesis with this blatant statement of such – ‘we cannot claim that God rules over Christ in the first place’, then Chrysostom and Cyril are cited . those are later than say Origen

    See section 2 concerning “the beginning” of Origen’s “On First Principles.

  • So the order goes Father-Son; Son-man; man-woman. The suggestion is that headship can’t mean the same in each instance. I get that.

    But how do we account for the fact that Paul linked Son-man and then man-woman and not Son-man-woman?

    We know that in Galatians Paul has no problem “leveling” the playing field – “neither man nor woman, etc.”. But here he deliberately made the separation. Perhaps there is a simple explanation…thoughts?

  • Andrew

    Jesus did submit to the Father’s will – but Jesus was/is also one with the Father, and all authority on Heaven and Earth was given to Jesus. So I think Peppiatt and Scot are right to warn of the dangers of interpreting husband-wife headship (which on it’s own is a questionable interpretation) and then reading that back into the Trinity as hierarchy. I think we start with the Trinity, and then work to what that means for husbands and wives. When we do this, I think we will find that it makes much more sense, taking into consideration the entirety of the NT, that the husband-wife relationship is to be one of mutual submission, equality, and unity – not hierarchy.

  • patricklmitchell

    Totally fine with that, Andrew, and in agreement. I think the warnings and cautions need be made. Mutual submission is what my wife and I practice. I’m not her boss. I will lay down my life for her. Thus, she knows if I feel strongly about something to the point that I would disagree with her, she trusts me because of my love for her. I don’t think it’s difficult to read of the submitting and sending within the Trinity as a model for human relationships…but maybe I’ve oversimplified it. Great words, though. Thank you.

  • Hi Patrick. It’s important to say at the start that the “simplest interpretation” of Scripture with our 2015 eyes is not always the right one. So, you probably won’t even accept anything I will have to say. But sticking to this post’s passage and the size of a blog comment box, Paul has a wordplay with kephale here in 1 Cor 11. The passage is talking about why women should cover their “glory”, their hair with a veil. Head–kephale. Before that he’s talking about kephale, which can be translated “source.” Scholars differ on what this passage is saying. But here’s my very non-scholarly thoughts! As Chrysostom does–I start with the way that God is the “source” of Christ. Well, in the Virgin birth God was the necessity for Jesus’ birth–His source. So a woman comes from a man’s desire, i.e. her father. I think you also hear this in John 1:12, 13: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God.” It’s the idea that we are born of the “will of man” concept. Our physical source. Christ is the source of men’s frame, I think, perhaps following Irenaeus who said (paraphrased) that Christ appeared to show that we were created in His image. Or it could be that Christ is the One who makes it possible for a man to even physically be fertile? And to your point about why women should not just submit if she has a super godly man? I believe God made women to submit to His leading and that two are stronger than just one–that something beautiful happens when men and women work together side by side in the power of God’s spirit that doesn’t happen alone. If I just let my husband lead I will not exercise my responsibility to hear from the Lord myself and my walk will suffer. It sounds like you have a egalitarian “praxis” if not belief.

  • I recently read article with statements by Marianne Thompson! She said, “”That’s the great arc or trajectory that runs from Genesis to Jesus to Galatians—an arc that bends toward mutuality and unity. That is what I think needs to be modeled in the “manifold ministries of Christ and his church.” If in Christ, the church is the “new humanity” (Eph 2:15), it needs to model and embody the reconciliation and peace that Christ brings about. One of the ways in which we show this is in the mutuality of service shared by men and women.” And from the same Fuller article I liked this quote from a clinical psychology PhD student , “People tend to think of me as a passionate preacher because I draw out the emotion in the text and in the characters that I highlight. Women see things in the text that men may miss. If only men can speak, there is an aspect that won’t be addressed. . . . As a woman, I can speak to something in men that a man can’t speak to, and as a woman I can speak to something in women that another man can’t speak to. The opposite is true as well: men can speak into women, men can speak into men—but together we can speak into each other most fully. Men and women together are able to reach the totality of the human experience.”(Leah Fortson, preacher and fifth year clinical psychology PhD student) Here’s the Fuller article: I think this is true in marriage as well as in the Church.

  • No, actually he’s against complementarianism in marriage I think. Try this article as to why he believes that the Southern Baptist Convention will change their views on complementarianism because they’ve based the idea of a husband’s headship upon the faulty theological foundation of the eternal subordination of the Son. He also links this to why the country’s divorce rate is going down across the map yet the Southern Baptists’ divorce rates have instead been increasing.

  • patricklmitchell

    As you said, in praxis I’m basically egalitarian, but that’s because I believe a husband who leads well shouldn’t need to ‘put his foot down.’ And don’t sell yourself short on the ‘non-scholar’ self-evaluation. You clearly have a firm handle on the issues and texts.

    My hope is that instead of the strong attempts to rid the world of egalitarianism or complementarianism, both sides would urge husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. That really takes care of the matter for me. No man can do that and be a tyrant over his wife. And no wife should be cowering in the corner while her husband makes all the decisions…that’s a different religion.

  • patricklmitchell

    Like I said, she’s awesome! I enjoyed my years at FTS. That aside, I agree that there are issues women can speak into that men don’t see and vice versa (though much more often the former if we’re all being honest). And this is where we’re all okay to disagree, is that IF there’s something my wife and I don’t see eye to eye on, she will yield to me. In our 9 years, 3 kids, a miscarriage, 2 dogs, and three churches, we’ve never gotten close to that situation.

  • patricklmitchell

    If he thinks the SBC will change that view, I’d like to have whatever coffee he’s drinking. I grew up SBC and appreciate much of that tradition, but there are some things I can’t put my stamp on, so to speak.

  • Patrick I have a dear friend who really wanted to follow the Lord. She submitted to her husband in every way. He got more and more self-centered, finally leaving her and her four boys for a younger woman. She never should have submitted to him. Here’s the way I see submission: we should submit to our spouses only in ways that lead them increasingly into Christ’s image and as the Spirit directs. Agree?

  • I wouldn’t know.

  • Jon45Solas

    More presuppositions coupled with bad exegesis. The very things egalitarians like to hurl at complementarians. The definite article “Ai” at the outset of Eph. 5:22 distributes the command. It is common to recognize a clean break from the general application to all in v. 21, to the more specific applications to individual groups in the following verses. The egalitarian understanding of this passage is the novel one, not the complementarian.

    By the way, does Jamin Hubner ever actually explain what 5:21 means?

    As for the 1 Cor. 7 passage, the instruction is for the mutual possession of the physical bodies of husband and wife. This has nothing to do with the chain of command in the marital relationship.

    Furthermore, Eph. 5 is certainly not the only “authority” passage in the NT. What about 1 Peter 3:1-6 & Titus 2:5 (specifically for marriage) and 1 Cor 11:2-16 & 1 Tim. 2:9-15 (for women in the broader context)?

    Finally, the burden of proof rests on the accuser: Where are the commands in the Bible that instruct men to submit to women?

    The “deer-in-the-headlights look” that this guy would get from me would be simply due to his poor treatment of the text.

  • patricklmitchell

    Right, the submission of the church to Christ is because it leads to sanctification. If my ‘leadership’ of my wife isn’t leading her closer to Christ’s image, then I’m of the devil…as it sounds like this guy was.

  • Hi Jon. I think the gospel of Matthew is perhaps the clearest example of men submitting to women (given the size of a blog comment box and the distance we are getting from the post!) Matt 28:16, NRSV– “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.” How had Jesus directed them? Back to verse 10, where Jesus is speaking to the two Marys: “Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” The eleven male disciples submitted to Jesus’ direction as given through two women.

  • Jon45Solas

    There’s no conflict in the authority structure of men and women for Jesus to issue a command to men via women. For example, even though I may be the head of a department at my workplace, the general manager may speak to an employee who is under me, and tell him to pass on a command to me. The employee is powerless to command anything over me himself, and refers completely to the authority of the manager in the command. You said it yourself: “The eleven male disciples submitted to JESUS’ direction”.

  • Jon45Solas

    1 Peter 3:1-6. Wives are commanded to submit even when husbands are unbelievers in order to win them over without a word.

    Your idea makes submission completely subjective, which destroys the concept altogether.

    The problem is not authority, it is the abuse thereof! That’s why in Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3 the command for wives to submit is followed by the command for husbands to love (in Eph.) and to honor (in 1 Pet.).

  • Phil Miller

    This gets to heart of the matter. I don’t believe Peter is recommending that a wife submit to her husband because the husband is somehow granted de facto authority, but rather, I think he’s recommending submission as the posture that we are to take as Christians. We are all in mutual submission to each other, and as Paul says in Philippians 2, we are to take on the role of the servant, even considering ourselves nothing. So in a very real sense, all the discussion surrounding who has authority in a marriage is completely wrongheaded. The order that Christ establishes in His Kingdom isn’t based on power over, but on service and weakness.

    There is a sense that humans naturally desire for a structured hierarchy. Israel demanded that God provide them a King, for instance. In the upside-down Kingdom, though, weakness is greater than strength and things that are considered foolish are greater than human wisdom.

  • Phil Miller

    The problem is that if you’re saying the man is the one who has God-granted authority, than he is completely within his rights to use that authority and to demand submission from his wife. That is why this is such a dangerous concept. It’s like you’re saying you want it both ways. If someone has authority over you, you don’t have a choice when it comes to submitting to them, really. If you don’t submit, you’ll face some sort of consequence. If Paul is recommending wives submit to their husbands, he is implying the have a real choice to do otherwise.

  • Jon45Solas

    You say, “I don’t believe Peter is recommending that a wife submit to her husband because the husband is somehow granted de facto authority…”

    Would you then care to address the fact that the command is never reversed?

    The posture of humility that Paul commands in Phil. 2 certainly doesn’t indicate this. Jesus is the prime example of humility to His church, but He is always the head.

    You also mentioned “service and weakness”. Don’t you mean “meekness”? Meekness is strength under control. Weakness is a lack of strength. Jesus is the head of the Kingdom; unlimited power, complete control.

  • Jon45Solas

    Oh, it’s more than a recommendation. It’s a command. As an apostle under the inspiration of the Spirit, he doesn’t just suggest.

    But you’re definitely getting at least part of the thrust, here. You’re right when you say, “If someone has authority over you, you don’t have a choice when it comes to submitting to them, really”. That’s exactly the point! Of course this means that a husband can demand submission!

    Just like when God commands His creatures to do something, the creatures don’t have a choice other than this: do what you’re told, or be found to be disobedient. If you choose disobedience, then face the consequences. “The wages of sin is death” is the ultimate consequence, isn’t it? And how much sin is required? “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”

    I will grant this one allowance to the justification of usurping the husband’s authority: if obedience to the husband causes the wife to be disobedient to God, the wife is under no obligation to the husband. How is this consistent, one may ask? More authority, that’s how. God’s authority trumps man’s authority.

    I would hope that at some point the church would grow weary of all this subjective argumentation and make a move toward more objective understanding. There’s always going to be another excuse why a command won’t work, and more and more anecdotal evidence for abuses, but that doesn’t negate the command.

  • patriciamc

    “Since the Father’s relation to the Son is one of perfect union eternally and a relationship of ordered love for the other, the notions of headship of Christ to the man and the man to the woman are to follow suit: they are about union and love, not hierarchy and authority.”

    Exactly. Now, operating under the assumption that Paul is not a member of the Trinity, I have to filter all teachings through the commands of Christ. I’ll take seriously the thought of man as the boss of woman when I see Christ teach this. Until then, I believe the relationship verses are an application of Christ’s command to love one another. That’s why Ephesians 5:21 is key to the reading of the rest of those verses, so “head” means love, not authority.

  • Phil Miller

    I definitely meant weakness, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1,

    For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    The power of the Kingdom is a different sort of power than what the world typically operates by. I like how John Caputo puts it in this excerpt from his book, The Weakness of God.

    The kingdom of God is the rule of weak forces like patience and forgiveness, which, instead of forcibly exacting payment for offense, release and let go. The kingdom is found whenever war and aggression are met with an offer of peace. The kingdom is a way of living, not in eternity, but in time, a way of living with out why, living for the day, like the lilies the field–figures of weak forces–as opposed to mastering and programming time, calculating the future, containing and managing risk. The kingdom reigns whenever the least and most undesirable our favor all the best and most powerful or put on the defensive. The powerless power of the kingdom prevails when ever the one is preferred to the ninety-nine, whenever one loves one’s enemies and hates one’s father and mother while the world, which believes in power, counsels us to fend off our enemies and keep the circle of kin and kind, of family and friends, fortified and tightly drawn.

  • Jon45Solas

    Well, as nice as that sounds, I’ll take this anyday:

    “‘Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.’ Let me ask you a question. Is God foolish? Is God weak? Both of those are words that are used for the sake of irony. They are words looked at from a man’s viewpoint. When a man thinks God is foolish, when a man thinks God is weak, at that very point He is infinitely wiser than that man and infinitely mightier. You see?” -From a John MacArthur sermon on the text

  • Andrew Dowling

    What if she feels strongly about something and disagrees with you?

  • scotmcknight

    Yes, one would have to consider such a suggestion.

  • scotmcknight


    You have good observations; you’ve thought this stuff through carefully, and it’s obvious. But, it doesn’t help your case to be so accusatory: look at your first two sentences here, both accusations. “Novel”: really? Isn’t stuff from the two fathers here at least suggestive of such a rendering? No need, I am suggesting, to over do your side of the case.

    If you look for the term “submit” none, to be sure. But how is the term “submit” understood in Eph 5 and Col 3 with respect to males? by self-sacrificing love for the good of another.

    Last sentence is again accusatory; these kinds of comments put people on their feet to defend. Why not pursue the way of charity and discussion?

  • scotmcknight

    Sorry, but Lucy established this earlier in the book and we covered it in an earlier post.

  • patricklmitchell

    We pray about it together. We’ve never gotten to the point of serious disagreement on anything more than where to eat. I yield to her expertise in finances and childhood education–as she is great with both. If I had a major issue with a recommendation she was making, she’d yield to my leadership so long as she feels I’m being sensitive to the Spirit.

  • Angie

    Is yielding to expertise the same as yielding to leadership?

  • Jon45Solas

    Hey Scot,

    Largely, you’re right. I can get a little carried away at times, admittedly. I will work at softening my tone, and I thank you for the check.

    I guess I thought I was just returning the favor in kind, what with the accusation of “bad theology” at the outset of the comment from Julie, followed by the infelicitous quote.

    As far as the “novel” assertion goes, I suppose I really had in mind the egalitarian movement in general, and not the treatment of the specific passage. My mistake.

  • patricklmitchell

    Expertise doesn’t always equal leadership…just look at the church! But my wife is wise and a good leader, so I trust her in a number of matters. We tend to find common ground because my main concern is loving her as Christ loved the church…crazy how this works!!!

  • Angie

    Are you saying, if she yields to you, you are exercising leadership, and if you yield to her you are accepting her expertise? I am trying to understand.

  • Angie

    Is leading making the decision that .1% percent of the time? If so, then is that the only time you are leading as you use the word? Also, you have never yielded to her on something you initially disagreed on?

  • patricklmitchell

    No need to make that dance, Angie. My wife is a tremendous leader. Leaders lead. As I’ve said elsewhere, in practice we are basically egalitarian. The difference is I really believe I have a special responsibility as the head of our marriage and family, in the way that Christ is head of the church. The analogy breaks down if you want it to die the death of 1000 qualifications, as any analogy does–even ones in the Bible.

  • Angie

    First, “Of course this means that a husband can demand submission!” This is riddled with problems which should be obvious.

    Second, what are the consequences for a wife’s supposed disobedience to her husband?

    Third, the 1 Peter 3 instructions were to wives in a first century context in which male hierarchy and female submission and subordination were culturally sanctioned. The instructions are given as advice on not giving the adversary within their context any reason to speak against them or to malign faith in Christ. In our own cultural context (USA), where women, for the most part, are seen quite differently than those of the first century, I contend that instructing husbands they can demand submission and obedience and imposing a male hierarchy where there culturally is not one maligns faith in Christ and gives the adversaries of our faith reason to look upon us suspiciously.

  • Angie

    I’m not dancing, just trying to understand what you have written. So, is that special responsibility the .1% of the time you have to make a decision because you do not agree?

  • Jon45Solas

    “This is riddled with problems which should be obvious.” Like what? If you mean abuse of power, then I would say that Paul & Peter already anticipated this. Hence, the address to men following the submission commands in Eph. 5 & 1 Peter 3.

    As for the treatment of 1 Peter 3 – You argue for the first century cultural case, but Peter cites Abraham and Sarah for an example. And many egalitarians like to point to Ephesus’ frequent reversal in traditional male/female roles which stands in stark contrast to your assertion that “submission and subordination were culturally sanctioned.” Paul goes even further than Peter so far as to point all the way back to the created order in 1 Cor. 11 & 1 Tim. 2.

    Why should I now believe that these arguments no longer apply in the USA because of the changing view of the roles of women? It is my contention that quite the opposite is true; that we need to emphasize the properly defined roles of men and women more than ever.

  • LA_Mom

    If you were not a man, it would be less of a struggle for you. 🙂 Let me just tell you buddy, no matter how benevolent a husband you might be, you don’t love your wife anywhere near as well as Jesus loves the church. Matter of fact, you asking this question, “Why is this so awful?” is very telling. Why don’t you try doing it the other way for a while, let her be in charge of you and you be in utter submission to her. See how that feels. See if you don’t feel like less of a person. I’m sure she’d do her best to love you like Jesus loves the church, so it should be okay for you to be subordinate to her. I mean, give it a shot. No? Hate to give up your freedom, your agency, your ability to self-govern with God as your Leader? Yeah, us too.

  • patricklmitchell

    I lead by being close to God and helping my family draw close as well. My wife leads in a similar way, but I believe I will give an account as the head. Leading isn’t just about making decisions, but that seems to be where most people focus, so that’s where I was focusing. Leading by the example of Christ is what I try to do–the way he loved the church. Hope that helps. All the best.

  • LA_Mom

    “I welcome women to operate in their giftedness.” 🙂 I know you can’t see it, but that’s very entitled of you. 🙂 We don’t actually need your welcome or permission to do as God leads us to do. 🙂 You really do like that 1% greater vote/control thing, I think. 🙂 How about instead of getting to be the tie breaker in the relationship, you both keep praying about it until you have the answer that you both agree with 100% in the Spirit? 🙂

  • patricklmitchell

    LA_Mom, not sure if you’ve read any other comments I’ve made. I presume not. I didn’t say I was Christ or love as well as him–that’s the goal, but I’ll always fall short. You can’t say “us” as you don’t speak for all women, just as I don’t speak for all men. But I don’t think your issue is with me…it sounds like you were wronged. I’m terribly sorry if that’s the case. If not, then great. I just sense a deep wound. Grace to you.

  • LA_Mom

    But it feels good to know she’ll do what you want if it comes to that? If you are egalitarian in every way except in case of disagreement emergency, maybe you should let go of that “divine right of kings” to be the boss, should it ever come to that. 🙂 Don’t worry, if you give that up, nothing will spin out of control. It will just mean that you and your wife are committed to keep going before the Lord UNTIL you reach perfect unity and agreement.

  • LA_Mom

    You’re so close. You could have an even better union with your wife if you just allow her to be your equal in all things… your perfect (meet) bookend/other half. Let go of the false responsibility and trust God that you’ll never have to “pull rank” (how odious!) but believe that the union you share together and with God makes hierarchy in your marriage not only unnecessary, but a hinderance. 🙂

  • patricklmitchell

    Your tone is telling, LA_Mom. All the best to you and yours.

  • LA_Mom

    It’s always men who argue for their higher rank in the hierarchy… 🙂 funny, that.

  • LA_Mom

    Your wife is already as close to Jesus as a person can ever be in this life time. He lives IN her and is one with her. You can’t improve upon that, pal. 🙂

  • LA_Mom

    So now you’re a mind and “tone” reader? lol, well, that must come from your magic “man is spiritually superior” super powers. 😀 I think this is rather funny.

  • LA_Mom

    Not at all. My husband is probably the finest specimen there is of a husband. He’s the one who is usually in these conversations advocating for the rights and equality of women, biblically and otherwise. 🙂 We’ve never had a single problem or disagreement where one of us had to “yield” to the other because we approach everything from a place of equality and unity and really amazing divine union. 🙂 Never been wounded once. 🙂 Sorry to blow your theory, though. 🙂

  • Angie

    Will she not be held to account for how she leveraged her strengths for her family? Or, if so, is she held to account to the same degree as you or to a lesser degree because she has a lesser position? I am not being facetious. I am trying to understand how you perceive your relationship.

    It appears from the comments you first made the connection to leadership being about having 51% of the vote on an issue. For believers, leading or influencing, I agree, is done by following the example of Christ which I believe all Christ-followers are called to do to same degree, whether husband or wife or single.

    Thank you for trying to help me understand, and all the best to you.

  • Angie

    Re: “Of course this means that a husband can demand submission!”

    It’s an exclamation with a certain tone in a context that denies a wife choice, and states that anything other than her compliance and submission is disobedience with consequences.

    How do you define abuse of power?

    Can a husband demand submission and expect his wife against her judgement to sign on the line to mortgage home for what appears to him to be a good venture?

    Can a husband demand submission and have his wife take a certain job over her preference? Demand submission to her home schooling their children? Demand submission to his non-sinful sexual preferences for which she may not have a license?

    These are not sinful requests and a husband could perceive his preference as coming from a place of love or for what he believes would be best for his wife, the family, or their relationship, so I suppose to some, it would not be an abuse of power for the husband to demand her submission? By the way, what are the consequences wives should expect for their disobedience?

    Second, you misunderstood my reference to first century cultural context. 1 Peter is written to a first century cultural context. Abraham and Sarah share a cultural context much more like the first century than we do, so they would be a fitting allusion.

    Situational circumstances, the status of women in societies, and the like will change. Principles for the sake of not maligning the gospel are always in fashion. We must be diligent to discern how to apply principles in our own unique context.

  • patricklmitchell

    that’s great to hear! I’ve never been in a disagreement where anyone had to yield either, so that’s good.

  • patricklmitchell

    She will certainly be accountable. I read the parallel of Christ seeking to sanctify his bride into marriage and, with that, a certain level of accountability with that. Jesus seeks to present his bride spotless…I hope to lead and inspire my wife towards Christlikeness as much as possible. Of course if she were single, she’d still be just fine on her own.

  • GeeJohn

    “Where are the commands in the Bible that instruct men to submit to women?”

    I can’t recall a Bible passage excluding women from civil authority or leadership. Paul seems pretty tame about paying due to the boring detail of governing: tariffs, court fees, tolls. All of those things are acts of submission. 1 Timothy 2 1-3 strikes me as open to a female authority being prayed over for civil prosperity. Do you think Paul would tell his fellow early Christian men not to submit to civil authority if the ruler was a queen?

  • Phil Miller

    Do you believe that Paul’s admonition to slaves to submit to their masters was for all time as well? This may actually have more scriptural support than the concept of women submitting to men, but I don’t see many commentators saying that slavery was God’s plan. But Paul seems to be telling slaves to live within the system they are in for the sake of the Gospel. I believe that’s the same spirit in which he is speaking to not just women, but all believers. After all, Paul believed that Christ was in the process of making all things right, and the social order would be set right soon enough.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “That is to say, the Trinity OPERATES this way in practice, even if the Trinity is not constructed this way intrinsically.”

    As I said before in another thread, the Trinity does NOT confer any hierarchical authority of one entity over another; that is a heretical concept. All of the persons are distinct yet equal. You can’t say there are equal/of one substance/essence and then concurrently say one has authority over the other . . . that doesn’t logically hold.

  • Andrew Dowling

    That’s because . . tsk tsk . . the authors of the Gospel did not believe in the Trinity as formulated at Nicaea; that theological construct did not yet exist. So, and this happens all the time, you have people presupposing later theology onto the text. You can believe the Trinity, you can affirm the Gospels, but you can’t then presuppose the Trinity through the Gospels as if that’s what the writers were envisioning all along. Well I guess one can, but it’s being intellectually dishonest.

  • Jon45Solas

    Absolutely, it was for all time. In our society, we use the employer/employee model, but the application to submit to authority stands.

  • Angie

    I think I understand you to say you believe you have a greater responsibility in the marriage. I do not know how that would be quantified. I believe both spouses have a responsibility to love, respect, submit, and leverage their strengths for the benefit of the other, and inspire each other towards Christlikeness. When both spouses are contributing consistently in this way, I believe marriages are healthier and have the potential in our context for evangelistic effect.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Patrick, color me skeptical that you’ve never had a major disagreement with your wife more than over “where to eat.”

    I guess I don’t understand how, in your hypothetical, with both parties feeling strongly about something, having an automatic “deference to the husband” card to pull is respectful to your wife.

    I’ve long ago learned that in relationships there is no one size fits all, so if these works out with ya’ll so be it (although I’m not sure you can say it works if you’ve never had such a situation where it went beyond the hypothetical). I do think MOST people, men or women, in such a situation would feel discounted and over time, develop bitterness. I also know, as a man, I often feel I’m always right but concurrently, I can stick to a viewpoint more due to pride and stubbornness than because its truly the correct route to go. Luckily for me, in my opinion (although I don’t always recognize this!) my wife will not put up with my BS and call me out for it. I don’t think our relationship would work otherwise. But hey, honestly, best of luck to you!

  • Jon45Solas

    I can’t cite a bunch of verses right now, but I’ll lay down the concept, and hopefully have some time tomorrow to reference this for you, but it happens this way and this way only in Scripture: The Father sends the Son And the Spirit, the Son sends the Spirit, but the Spirit never sends the Son or the Father, and neither does the Son send the Father. That is the ad extra argument in a nutshell.

  • Jon45Solas

    That’s an entirely different case because it doesn’t have anything to do with either marriage or the church. There is no specific address given, except to obey the governing authorities. I see no necessary conflict.

  • GeeJohn

    I am less certain a Roman citizen such as Paul (or really any cultural navigator in the Empire) could draw as clean of a break as you suggest. Unless one was Ceasar most everyone else survived by-in-large via dusty old ideas like patrocinium, clientela, amicitia, and hospitium. You might run your father-in-law’s vineyard, but to think you’ll never submit to his daughter, his wife or broader family/marriage alliances would be, I think, a rather foreign idea to that, or any other, culture.

  • Jon45Solas

    Less curious than you assert, actually. God said that it was going to be that way in Genesis 3:16- “Yet your desire will be for your husband…” Compare to Genesis 4:7 for the meaning of desire in this context.

  • Jon45Solas

    Now I think you’re delving into the precarious position of placing one set of inspired teaching over another, and thereby making the assumption that interpreters are free to view passages of Paul through the lenses of OUR ideas of what are Jesus’ instructions. This is subtle subjectivity, but subjectivity nevertheless. “ALL Scripture is GOD-BREATHED”.

  • Jon45Solas

    1 Peter 3:5-6 – “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; just 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.”

    It’s as if Peter already addressed all possible objections and fears by pointing out that by being submissive to their husbands, women are placing their trust in God.

    When you speak of careful cultural application, you seem to mean “no submission”. That’s not the same thing as submission in a modern setting.

  • Amaryllis

    Delurking to say that this is an interpretation that’s had some highly unfortunate real-world consequences.

    Christian women in abusive marriages get told by their pastors that submission is their wifely duty, and that the Bible doesn’t sanction divorce in cases of abuse. Furthermore, if a wife’s submission is supposed to convert her husband, and he doesn’t change, it must be that her “evangelistic effort” is lacking, right? Not submissive enough, not patient enough, not loving enough, not Christian enough…So if he’s still beating you up, it’s your own fault.

    Furthermore, many of these men don’t consider themselves “unregenerate” if that means “non-Christian” or “unsaved.” That is, they claim to be Christians acting on Biblical doctrines of authority.

    And yeah, you can say that that’s an abuse of the doctrine. Even so, a doctrinal interpretation that leads so easily to such sadly common abuse is an interpretation that needs to be seriously reconsidered.

  • Scott

    Whereas I do not agree with your interpretive position, may I say that I am much impressed with your tone. You have been kind and considerate throughout the entire discussion. Unfortunately, we often end up denying (by our tone and verbiage) the very thing we are attempting to defend…biblical truth!

  • Phil Miller

    Well, I think the typical employer/employee relationship is much, much different than a master/slave relationship. Certainly we should be willing to serve our employers in a Christlike manner, but I can’t imagine anyone would expect an employee to stay in a workplace where they are abused, harassed, etc. No one would counsel that because employees are free to leave and look for work elsewhere. Slaves certainly were not. Paul was not ordaining slavery as part of the God-created order, just like he isn’t saying the male headship isn’t part of the God-ordained order. These were things that were facts of life in one way or the other, and I believe Paul was teaching that the Gospel transcends all of these temporary cultural issues.

  • Jon45Solas

    Conversely, I might say that the world has yet to see the full consequences of the egalitarian model, but one might very well make the assertion that the blurring of the roles of men and women has led to a whole host of other problems, like identity crises for boys and girls who end up becoming homosexuals, on the one hand, or ultra violent gangs with no regard for the sanctity of human life, on the other. There are many observed links in both of these extremes to either passive men who don’t lead their homes, or abandon them altogether.

    Physical abuse is an extreme here, obviously, and one of the areas I could have (and would have) stated as a time when the wife is discharged of her obligation to submit.

    As to your address to the issue of submission as an evangelistic effort, that holds no sway because God is the One who saves, not people. The wife is only called to be at God’s disposal for that as a witness. This is no different than other evangelistic efforts: you are responsible for the presentation of the gospel, but not for their response.

  • Jon45Solas

    And just as in the marital relationship, you are content to highlight only the abuses of slavery, not the institution itself. And this is where your analogy suffers, I think. You are arguing that male authority shouldn’t be a part of the marital institution by saying that the institution of slavery is wrong. What you are not saying is that both institutions are wrong.

    Rather, I’m saying that Paul argues for proper recognition of authority in the master/slave relationship (which he does), AND he argues for proper recognition of authority in the marital relationship (which he does).

    Here’s the nuts-and-bolts of the employer/employee relationship: yes, it is a great freedom we enjoy in this country to be able to choose to leave employment, but while we are employed, we are obligated to submit to the authority of our employer. In your model, then, leaving your job should be akin to divorcing your spouse.

    So, in the point you make about how you “can’t imagine anyone would expect an employee to stay in a workplace where they are abused, harassed, etc.”, I can’t either! That authority is dissolved by the abuse thereof, just as I’ve been arguing the entire time for authority in the marriage.

  • Phil Miller

    I’m sorry, but your logic is so full of holes, it’s incomprehensible. To say that there is such a thing as “proper authority” in the master/slave relationship is ludicrous, and it’s the type of reasoning that made it possible for slavery to remain an institution as long as it was in the US. It was common for apologists for slavery to say things like, “many masters treat their slaves well!”. Even if true, it doesn’t make the practice right.

    Honestly, I feel our worldviews are so far apart, it’s hard to see how continuing the discussion is going to be fruitful. I see the trajectory of God’s plan for humanity moving towards more and more freedom, not a baptizing of sinful human institutions and notions (and no, I’m not saying marriage is a sinful human institution). If every relationship comes down to varying degrees of one party holding power over the other, true intimacy becomes impossible.

  • Jon45Solas

    I said last night in my reply that I could reference this subject for you further, but there have been so many that paved this way already, I thought I’d rather just link to one:

    I like the terminology Matt Slick uses here, “ontological Trinity; economic Trinity”. Some people replace “economic” with “functional”, which is a word I use often.

    At any rate, there’s no heresy here, it is rather the widely accepted orthodox view, whatever your logical issues with it may be.

  • tbc

    I think it is fairly clear that Jesus’ relationship with the Father was / is one of submission or obedience, the consequence of which was the exaltation of Jesus by the Father (that at name of Jesus every knee shall bow, etc.). Jesus is quite explicit in the course of his ministry that he does not operate on his own accord nor his own authority, and at the critical moment he yields his ‘rights’ (nevertheless not my will, etc…). Then too Jesus defines friendship viz his disciples on the basis of their obedience, and defines family on the basis of submission to the will of the father. If then this is the model, as it seems to be Paul’s model, Ephesians and Corinthians makes sense.

    The trouble we seem to have in my view is chiefly a deep seated cultural one, that is, we are inherently biased against and suspicious of hierarchy and authority in a way that the NT and OT is not. This is especially true in the husband / wife relationship, which is why we do not have a raft of arguments and counter arguments and blogs about ‘children submit to / obey your parents’ — even though abuse of children is an unfortunately all too frequent occurrence (especially in single mother headed households). We have no problem with this because we believe (as is demonstrably true) that children are inferior in their reasoning abilities and so on — nevermind the fact that in the context of the scriptures, ‘children’ could refer to what we would consider fully functioning adults up to 30 years or more in some cases.

    More to the point however, if Paul’s goal is to “remind the males that God — not they — was the one who brought the church into its proper union and shape”, then it strengthens rather than weakens the so-called complementarian argument and worse, it implies that the role of the man is likewise to bring the woman into her proper union and shape, since the logic is — as Christ is to the church so the husband is to his wife.

    There is also a false dichotomy being made here between union & love and hierarchy & authority, as if the two cannot both be present, something belied by both scripture and the reality of our own lives. None would doubt the organic union between parents and their children. We would hope that love of parent to child would also be undoubted. Yet neither of these compromise the authority of parents over their children. Man and woman are similarly brought together in union and this disjunction the author perceives between hierarchy / authority and love/union is not one Paul recognises. It it perhaps our modern deficiency that this is so.

  • Deborah West

    1Peter3:7. And what do you think the ‘likewise’ means? It refers back to subject. And the subject is submission. Verse 7 is actually telling husbands to submit to their wives and live with them. We all submit to one another. Please do not take a few versus and lift them out of context.

  • Jon45Solas

    Holes in my logic, there are not. You are certainly free to disagree with me if you wish, but do not fault the logic.

    US slavery was a complete bastardization of the institution based on the evolutionary-fueled concept that black people are inferior to whites, and that somehow justified ownership of them as something akin to livestock. Your intolerance towards slavery in general is apparently fueled by your myopic view of it through American history. This does not necessitate the insistence that the institution was wrong.

    Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not arguing for slavery, per se. I would much rather have the opportunities that the employer/employee affords. But nowhere in the Bible does it say that slavery is wrong. In fact, the ultimate model of this relationship is the Christian to his Lord. He is the Master and Supreme Authority, and I am his humble bond-servant. The word translated “bond-servant” is the same word translated “slave” in other contexts.

    Furthermore, your assertions about true intimacy are easily disproved by the Trinity. All 3 members are perfectly equal, yet there is a functional hierarchy. There’s no better picture of authority AND intimacy than that. I’ve linked to this article above, but here it is again:

  • Angie

    I, too, have appreciated his gracious tone.

  • Alan Rutherford

    Getting down to nuts and bolts, what are the commands regarding authority in marriage, Jon? Ephesians and 1 Peter command wives to υποτασσομεναι, to submit themselves. Peter’s not commanding the authorities to do anything; when he refers to ‘every human authority’ in chapter 2, he’s clearly not being prescriptive for emperors or slaveholders. You’ve mentioned commands several times in this thread, and I just wanted to clarify, the commands to which you refer are for the alien, slave, wife, and believers to submit themselves, right?

    Is there a command to husbands to exercise authority?

  • Angie

    I’m sorry, but I don’t follow what you are saying here.

    All I am saying is submission, love, sacrifice, and service is the call of all believers. In our context, broadly, I hope, women and girls are not property, considered intellectually or morally inferior, or subordinate in social status. At marriage, there is no actual transfer of property or of a subordinate, so there is no need to impose a hierarchy, though couples are free to do so. Calling a contrived hierarchy “biblical” as in more “godly” or obedient to scripture is my objection.

  • Jon45Solas

    I have already addressed the topic of husbands’ responsibilities from this passage and others. I am not attempting to lift verses out of context. If by “likewise” Peter meant “husbands submit to wives”, then why all the different commands for husbands in the verse? Why would he have intentionally left the subject of submission out when addressing husbands if he meant for them to do exactly the same thing? “Likewise” here could be pointing back further.

    So, to broaden the context a little further, you could take the passage from 1 Peter 2:13, where Peter starts his discourse on authority in general, narrows the focus to Christ to set the example, then wives, then husbands, then broadens back out to his greater audience in 3:8. Be careful then to notice Christ as the example, and to Whom He submits in 2:23. It is God. Follow the thought to wives in 3:1, 5-6. 3:1 starts with “likewise”. There we read that it is wives to their husbands. Then we have husbands mentioned in 3:7. But the command to submit in particular is not repeated. Could the “likewise” be then pointing all the way back to Christ in ch.2?

  • tbc

    There is not; neither is there a command for governments to exercise authority, only a command to submit to government authority, excepting those occasions when such obedience will lead us to sin against God. The authority and right to exercise it is assumed by the complementary instruction to submit.

  • Hesed S.


    Sorry, but your assertion that slavery in the U.S, was based on Darwinianism just isn’t based on facts. African slaves were first brought to the U.S. in the early 1600’s and Darwin wasn’t even born until 1809. His works weren’t published until the mid 1800’s.

    Frankly, I’m appalled that a Christian would defend the ownership of one human being by another in ANY form.

  • Deborah West

    No, let’s not ‘broaden’ the text too much. Let’s go back to just the previous verse. The same in Eph 5:21-22. The verb ‘submit’ is not in verse 22, it is taken from verse 21. Verse 21 and 22 are actually ONE sentence, not two. And the subject is ‘submit to one another’. In the same way that Paul is trying to tell the husbands to submit in Eph 5:21, Peter is telling it in 1Peter3:7. When doing exegesis, historical content is a determining factor. In the 1st century, the Apostles simply could not tell those macho, ruling men to SUBMIT. It had to be done in a ‘soft’ way so as to bring them to Christ, not run them off. The Greeks and Romans had ruled, mastered, and enslaved people for centuries. No man was going to give up his ‘so-called’ authority easily. Even the Disciples argued about ‘who’s in charge’. And Christ reputed them with ‘not so with you’. Women probably had NO respect for husbands. Would you if you were treated as property? And men had NO love for they wives – who saw as mere property. Both Paul and Peter appealed to what was wrong on BOTH sides. For men, with loving servitude comes submission; for women, with respecting comes submission.

  • danaames

    1. We all bring presuppositions to the interpretation of scripture. Not a single one of us is free of them. There is no “objective view” of any text.

    2. Thus, the arguments formed on both sides of this issue are extremely, exquisitely legal, even those focusing on relationships. The question seems to be all about “authority.” It is not.

    3. A few of the commenters here approach humility. I contend that that is the true issue in this debate. ***But nobody is given the right by God to force humility on anyone else.*** In my experience, most American Protestants don’t even have a concept of humility on their radar screen.

    4. Upthread there was a J. MacArthur quote about God not possibly being weak. For him, and the commenter who quoted: Jesus Christ is the only face of God humans are able to see. There is no lower place of weakness in the first century than being strung up naked on a Roman cross, subject to public mockery and humiliation, while dying by torture. If we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father.

    (disclaimer: I believe that if you are a Protestant, there are just as many good, and better, “biblical” arguments for shared responsibility and mutuality in marriage as not, and plenty of scriptural and historical warrant for women serving in any Protestant ministry – as Protestants understand ministry. One of the reasons I left Protestantism was that I was tired of scripture being used to justify the idea that women are less than human – for that is the logical end of such arguments, whether those making those arguments can see that, or not.)


  • Jon45Solas

    tbc has the right idea there. No such command is required, for it is fully implied in the complementary command. But we do have one glimpse of this as it pertains to the qualifications of elders in 1 Timothy 3:4 ; “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.”

    Admittedly, this does not specifically mention wives, but it is stated that he is to manage his own household, this would include all members.

  • Alan Rutherford

    I think you’re reaffirming my point, then, Jon. There is no explicit command, just an assumption as tbc calls it, or an implication as you call it. Yet 1 Timothy describes the authority of pater familias over the household in Paul’s day. They had earthly authority, no argument there. However, there is no prescription.

  • Alan Rutherford

    PS. What is the ‘complementary command’?

  • Jon45Solas

    You’re partly right about my assertion about Darwinianism. Slavery was fueled by evolutionary thinking, but not based solely upon it. Biological racism (which says the same basic thing, that blacks are naturally inferior to whites) sprang up hand in hand with slavery, while the evolutionary model was further used to support scientific racism in the 19th century.

    As far as you finding my comments appalling, maybe you should read them again. I specifically stated that I WASN’T arguing for slavery. I just pointed out that the Bible doesn’t condemn the practice. I further attested to fact that the christian’s relationship to the Lord is often spoken of in these terms. “Lord” means “Master”, “bond-servant” means “slave”. I was not intending to argue right or wrong in the subject of human/human slavery. Rather, I was directing attention to Biblical teaching of Divine/human slavery to illustrate authority and intimacy together.

  • Jon45Solas

    Apparently I’m not tracking well with you here. Let me state it this way: Because wives are commanded to submit (Eph.5:22-24, Col. 3:18, 1 Pet. 3:1-6), then it naturally follows that husbands are to be the heads of their homes.

    This is what I mean by “complementary command” – if there exists a command for someone to submit to another, then you certainly don’t need to tell the other one to be in charge, for it is implied.

    One more example in addition to the ones provided by tbc: Children are commanded to obey their parents repeatedly in Scripture. How many times are parents commanded to rule their children?

  • Phil Miller

    You’re kind of skirting around the main issue. Here’s a simple question. Is slavery an acceptable practice? Yes, Scripture does not outright condemn it, but beyond that is it morally OK for one human to basically own another?

  • Angie

    You can submit, yield, or defer to someone and not have one person always “in charge” or the boss.

  • Jon45Solas

    I’m sorry to you Angie, for you completely misunderstand me.

    I never asserted that women and girls are to be treated as property, or that they are inferior in any way. This is why the Trinity is so instructive in this. All 3 persons are COMPLETELY EQUAL in intrinsic worth and Divine attributes. Yet, the Trinity FUNCTIONS in a hierarchy.

    Finally, there is nothing “contrived” about this hierarchy. Gender-based order is asserted in multiple places in Scripture. Here are the “big ones” we have been examining in this discussion: 1 Cor. 11:2-16, Col. 3:18, Eph. 5:21-33, 1 Tim. 2:9-15, 1 Pet. 3:1-7.

    Happy hunting!

  • Jon45Solas

    The “main issue”, as you call it, is nothing of the sort. My opinion of slavery is really of no concern to this discussion, but since you press me, I do have moral reservations about the practice. However, in my posture towards God’s Word, I am careful not to assert my own feelings on issues where the Bible has not spoken one way or another.

    Likewise, can you either curse something that the Lord has not cursed, or bless something that the Lord has not blessed?

  • Alan Rutherford

    Children are commanded to obey, but if we are looking for a command to parents to rule them, and we come up empty-handed, we need to be careful not to say that it naturally follows from those texts. Otherwise, Peter would be implying that emperors, masters, and husbands are in charge and certainly don’t need to be told — is he commanding them to be in charge? I don’t think it naturally follows.

  • Jon45Solas

    Granted. But here’s the deficiency of the argument: The command to submit is never directly given to the husband.

  • Angie

    You can’t love self-sacrificially, perform the one-another verses, be like Jesus without submitting. These instructions given to real people in real time as this posts argues inverted the hierarchy that existed rather than make it prescriptive.

  • Jon45Solas

    “You can’t love self-sacrificially… without submitting.” Not so. The Lord’s relationship to the church is the model given for the husband’s relationship to his wife in Eph. 5:25-27. The Lord doesn’t submit to the church, but certainly loves her self-sacrificially.

  • Jon45Solas

    Being informed as to your leadership is not the same as abdicating your authority. The president has his cabinet, but he calls the shots.

    Plus, the husband is accountable for his actions, too. He is accountable to God.

  • Phil Miller

    The reason I said this is the main issue is because slavery is good example of a practice that, even thought it isn’t explicitly condemned in Scripture, Christians have come to see as contrary to God’s purposes. Many of the arguments that you are using to support male headship are framed in exactly the same way as supporters of slavery framed their arguments. The fact that Scripture accepted certain cultural realities as being the norm doesn’t mean that those were God’s desire for humanity. The overarching principle in all of this discussion goes back to Galatians 3:28-29. The distinctions we make to separate ourselves on earth mean nothing in the Kingdom.

  • Jon45Solas

    I’ll tell you what: When the marriage institution is abolished at the resurrection, then I’ll accept that the policies that govern the institution will cease to exist, just as when the master/slave institution is abolished, whatever time that is.

  • Jon45Solas

    Another thought to what I wrote below, just so we’re clear on what I’m saying here.

    As long as the master/slave institution is active, God’s Word has already spoken as to how the parties should operate, regardless of how you feel about slavery.

    So much the same with marriage.

  • Amaryllis

    You can make those assertions, but I don’t find them convincing. Same-sex attraction really isn’t the result of identity crises due to relaxed gender norms. As for “ultra violent gangs,” violent young men seem always to be with us, all over human history long before modern feminism and LGBT activism.and one of the hallmarks of their sort of violence seems to be a kind of hyper-masculinism, an entitled male swagger, an extreme sensitivity to any perceived lack of respect for their manhood.

    Maybe you’d “discharge the wife of her obligation to submit.” That’s generous of you, isn’t it. But I’d find it preferable if she didn’t need anyone’s permission. And often, when women in those circumstances ask permission, they don’t get it.

    And holding women responsible for men’s behavior is a very old tradition in the Christian church.

  • Angie

    I have acknowledged multiple times the scriptures were written in a context with culturally sanctioned hierarchy that is no where prescribed. The “contrived” hierarchy is the male superior/female subordinate marriage some choose in the West where there is equality under the law because of a belief this model is more faithful to the text.

  • “It presumes that the husband is more spiritually mature than the wife as a matter of course.” Yes, and we have to remember that in the original culture, that was almost always true. Husbands had more education than, and were 10 or more years older than, the young women they married.

    But that doesn’t hold true today, and thus we have to adjust our practical application of these verses.

  • Also worth noting that in the time and culture Paul wrote, the heart was the seat of the will and intellect and the head was the source of nourishment for the body. They didn’t know about “brain.”

  • Jon, are you certain that the authority that you insist is so one-sided, men over women, husbands over wives, is actually not just a reflection of what was a given and an assumption in the culture– and not a divine mandate for all men and women for all time?

    I think the New Testament passages mostly say, “If there is an earthly authority structure, then submit to it.” No, it doesn’t tell those who have the culturally given authority to submit to those who don’t have it– EXCEPT where it tells all Christians to submit to one another, which looks like a mandate for the church, as opposed to simply an accommodation to the way things were.

    But what the New Testament doesn’t seem to say is “These earthly authority structures that exist at the time of this writing are meant to be part and parcel of the church until Jesus returns.” Instead it says, “You who want to be the greatest, be as the servant” and “If you don’t become as a little child [the child was the only person in that culture with no authority at all– even slaves could have authority over other slaves], you cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

  • I maintain that this is a function of the way the Godhead Self-expresses, and not a picture of authority and submission– “economic” or otherwise. God’s Word (the Son) and God’s Spirit both come from God the Self-expressor (the Father), but the Expressions of God are Themselves God. God within His divine Trinity knows what He wants to do– He does not have to command Himself the Son or Himself the Spirit to do it.

    This is also orthodoxy.

  • Well, since Paul himself admitted that he placed such priority on “love your neighbor as yourself,” I don’t think the position is all that precarious. Jesus said “this is the Law and the Prophets,” and Paul said “he who loves has fulfilled the Law.” Paul also said, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith operating through love.” So for Jesus and Paul, love could be and was placed over other inspired teachings.

  • Jon45Solas

    Am I sure it’s one-sided? Absolutely positive. All the things for which you are arguing in your replies are pretty pictures, and pretty subjective. You like to favor this idea of Jesus laying down His authority, then read that into these passages dealing with men’s treatment of their wives.

    But the commands are clear: wives submit, husbands love. Christ’s relationship to the church is the model presented for both: The church submits to Christ, while Christ displays self-sacrificial love to the church. In Ephesians 5, that’s the way it’s presented.

    The created order mentioned in 1 Tim. 2:13 bolsters this argument further, and sheds light on the 1 Cor. 11 passage. Paul always seems to make his arguments about gender roles with universal, not cultural concepts.

  • “Pretty pictures, and pretty subjective” – Really? Seems to me like I, too, am quoting some fairly clear passages from the New Testament that shed a strong light on this whole idea of one group of Christians insisting on having authority over another group of Christians, purely on the basis of what they have between their legs. I think it’s pretty easy to see that the Spirit was leading the church out of cultural structures of authority-over and into God’s-kingdom structures of mutuality and service.

    Subjectivity is part of being human. Your choice of verses to emphasize and verses to de-emphasize is subjective also. But the way I see it, if there are two ways to read a passage, and one says “I get to take authority over you” and the other says “I will lay down any power I possess and serve and love you,” it’s easy to see which one is more in line with “Love your neighbor as yourself, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

  • Jon45Solas

    Yup, really. No commandments anywhere in sight for men to submit to women, multiple commands for women to submit to men. Elders are always referred to as men, all the priests in the OT were men, everybody in authority in the church up until the last 200 years were men. The evidence is overwhelming, both Scripturally and anecdotally. The last several thousand millennia of the history of the true faith must be wrong because people in the last 200 years want it to be, eh?

  • Wow. I guess the “one another” in “submit to one another” doesn’t mean “one another,” it means “the powerless to the powerful.” Silly me.

    I guess when Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” He didn’t mean that for people in traditional areas of power. I guess when He gave the parable of the banquet, He meant that the people with the seats at the top of the table should grab tight to them and hold them against all comers. I guess the gospel is still about power and subordination, just like the world. Silly me.

    I guess the fact that the New Testament Greek male-gendered pronouns are actually inclusive (they can refer to any group that has at least one male in it) while the female gendered pronouns refer only to women, doesn’t matter. “He” is the word used for elders, and “he” always means “he.” So maybe that means that all those verses about God’s grace and salvation that use male-gendered pronouns aren’t really for us women at all. We get to be saved by having babies, as 1 Tim. 2 says– we don’t get to be saved by grace through faith in Christ. Those verses about grace use male-gendered pronouns. Oh, well.

    Sorry, but if this is your good news, I want no part of it. If women are to marginalized, kept under authority, and subordinated in the kingdom of God, then the kingdom is no better than the world, and the good news isn’t good news for me at all– only for you.

    This is why people are leaving churches and rejecting Christianity in droves– this religion of the slaveholder, the patriarch, the powerful.

    I tried following your version of Christianity, tried it for years. “Submit, submit, you belong under authority. But not me, I get to be the one submitted to!” How nice. For you.

    My husband hated it too. He never wanted the authority over me that they forced upon him.

    We’re so much happier now.

    I’ve had my say now. Call me an “emotional woman,” call me what you want– but this is something that deserves emotion. I love Jesus, and I’ll keep following Him. But I can’t follow this version of what you call His religion. It’s got no place for someone like me. And I really am having trouble figuring out what it has to do with Jesus either.

  • Phil Miller

    The last several thousand millennia of the history of the true faith must be wrong because people in the last 200 years want it to be, eh?

    Ironically, though, in both Orthodoxy and Catholicism you typically don’t find the emphasis on “male headship” as you do in Evangelicalism. Yes, the priesthood is reserved for males, but that has to do with how they view the Eucharist. It has nothing to do with submission and authority. That’s not to say there haven’t been Christians in those traditions who have lived with patriarchy. There certainly has. But you certainly don’t see the same sort of emphasis on it from the leadership in those churches.

  • Jon45Solas

    Just because egalitarians keep hammering on the topic in the blogosphere and I try to balance the lopsided arguments by presenting the other side doesn’t mean that the church I attend does nothing but talk about male headship all the live long day. It rarely becomes an issue that needs addressed. I don’t know where you may have experienced such an emphasis, but I would consider that a pretty strange thing, indeed.

  • Jon45Solas

    In the Bible we read that one should be careful in the taking of leadership roles in the church, especially in teaching the Scriptures to others, because those that do become accountable for leading others as well as for themselves. So then, to have authority over another is a more serious responsibility with more serious consequences that that of submission. Men who are serious about their leadership roles understand this and don’t enter into them lightly. So for you or any others to assert that complementarians like me just love to lord authority over their wives and other women is nothing short of ridiculous.

    You tell me which is easier: to submit like the church to Christ, or to love like Christ to the church?

    No, on second thought, don’t. I think I’ve heard enough.

  • I didn’t actually assert that you just love to lord authority over your wives. Your motives are between you complementarians and God; I don’t know why you practice this form of Christianity, and you probably all have different reasons. Many complementarians simply follow their church’s teaching on this. Many of them are my good friends. I’m not addressing motives.

    But the assertions that you make don’t sound anything like “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And it’s nice for you complementarian men that you aren’t the ones who have to be subordinated, whether you “love” that situation or not.

    That’s what I’m saying.

    Anyway, I’ve heard enough too. Now you seem to be asserting something similar to “the white man’s burden” that Kipling wrote about: that taking up power and authority granted you by birthright, is more of a hardship than being born to be under that authority. Not convincing.

    And how would you know whether it’s easier to submit like the church to Christ in a marriage? You were born to the privilege of never having to find out.

    I agree that we should end this.

  • From LA_Mom “…you both keep praying about it until you have the answer that you both agree with 100% in the Spirit?”

    From Kristen Rosser “This is why people are leaving churches and rejecting Christianity in droves– this religion of the slaveholder, the patriarch, the powerful.”

    From Acts 1-2: They all joined together constantly in prayer…until God’s answer came.

    Comment: Instead of one person as The Decider, everyone prays, everyone listens, everyone is a stakeholder, and everyone comes to agreement, in prayer, in marriage, in the church. The Holy Spirit is The Decider.