Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ergo, Ephesians 5:21-33

I thought, in light of the roles assigned to men and women in order to fulfill their part as the images of God in thwarting chaos from overtaking their family (and therefore humanity as a whole), I would translate (in terms of a dynamic equivalence) each of the New Testament passages that contrast the roles from the nuances in the Greek and in the context. I'll then explain some of my translation and the interpretation of each one afterward. 

Ephesians 5:21-33

Submit yourselves to each of your respective authorities in your recognition of Christ's authority:
Wives to your own husbands, as if you were doing so to the Lord Himself. For the husband is the authority of the wife as Christ is the authority of the Church. He is the S/savior of H/her body. But as the church is in submission to Christ, so also the woman should be in submission to the husband in all areas of life. 
Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up for her sake, in order that she might be holy, cleansed as by the washing of water in what is spoken, in order that He might present the Church to Himself in her splendor, without stain or wrinkle, but in order that she might be holy and blameless. Likewise, husbands are to love their wives as they love their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but feeds and takes care of it. Just as Christ also does for the Church, because we are the members of His body. "For this reason a man will leave behind his father and mother and become united with his wife; and the two will become one flesh." This is a great mystery, but I am speaking in terms of Christ and His Church.
Nevertheless, you also, as those who are one, each man is likewise to love his own wife as himself; but the wife is to recognize her husband’s authority.

21 The word   JUpotassovmenoi is an imperative that could mean “be submitted,” or “submit yourself.” It’s likely the latter, and I have translated it “be in submission” as a way of meeting both ideas half way. The word ajllhvloi" is often mistakenly thought to be reciprocal. However, in the context such an understanding makes no sense. Submission takes an authority to which it must submit. Submission isn’t humility. It’s a placing of one’s self under the direction of another. If everyone were to submit then no one would be in authority. If no one is in authority, then no one can submit. The absurdity is resolved when one understands that ajllhvloi" isn’t reciprocal but distributive: “one another” meaning “this one to that one, that one to that one, etc., which is what we have here: wives to husbands, children to parents, slaves to masters. Paul is not arguing that parents should submit themselves to the direction of their children or masters to their slaves (see also Rev 6:4, where it is painstakingly clear that the word is distributive). The phrase  ejn fovbw/ Cristou', often translated as respect, misunderstands the meaning of the term fovbo" (lit. “fear”) as that which merely lends respect when the term actually means a recognition of authority that the individual already has. Respect is an authority given, but fovbo" is due when one already has an authority and is recognized as such. In v. 22, it is clear that this relationship is between wives and husbands, not women to all men:  aiJ gunai'ke" toi'" ijdivoi" ajndravsin (“to her own husband”) wJ" tw'/ kurivw/. The Greek definite articles throughout this passage take upon the nuance of the personal pronouns, and thus are to be translated contextually as “his” or “her” etc.
23  o{ti ajnhvr ejstin kefalhV th'" gunaikoV" wJ" kaiV oJ CristoV" kefalhV th'" ejkklhsiva", aujtoV" swthVr tou' swvmato": The term kefalh (lit. “head”) undoubtedly means “authority,” not “source” as is often erroneously claimed by an extremely poor lexicographical methodology. The husband is the head of the wife in the same way as Christ is the head of the Church. The word aujtoV" is ambiguous and likely refers to both groups (Christ as Soter maior and the man as soter minor). Hence, I have translated it with both an upper and lowercase S and the article as a personal pronoun with both an upper and lowercase H. The word “savior” needs to be understood in terms of headship in the ancient world. Caesar was the head of the state and thus the savior of it. The authority is seen as the one who is to rescue the ones in submission to him from chaos  by taking care of them through his government of them and through his protection of them from harm. Christ is the Savior of Her Body (i.e., His Church) and the man is the savior of her body (his wife).
Hence, in vv. 24-26, we are told that the wife needs to be in submission to her husband as the Church is to Christ, lest this relationship where she is sanctified is rendered useless, and she is open to attack from the enemy, as would a nation without its protector would be. Hence, it is necessary for her to be in submission to him ejn pantiv “in all things,” not just in some things, as ignoring the direction of one’s protector in a time of chaos and war is likely to lead to ruin.
Hence, in v. 25, we are told that the man needs to love his wife in a manner that sacrifices himself, gives himself up for her, and her protection in all things. Verses 26-27 indicate that this protection/governing relationship is first and foremost spiritual. 
The washing in water by the rJhvmati “spoken word” in Ephesians likely refers to the verbal teaching of the word of God, through which Christ sanctifies the Church, but it also plays on the idea that the man is the director of his wife in terms of spiritual teaching.  
The phrase i{na h\/ aJgiva kaiV a[mwmo" has connections to the rest of the letter that places its purpose in showing that God predestined His people to become holy and blameless in Christ, and that this same purpose ought to also be in the husband’s leadership and teaching of his wife.
Verses 28-31 are pretty self explanatory. The husband is to treat his wife with the same love as he treats himself, because she is one flesh with him. Therefore, whatever he does to her he does to himself. If he sanctifies her with the word, he sanctifies himself with the word. If he ruins her by not taking upon his headship role, he ruins himself.
32 toV musthvrion tou'to mevga ejstivn: ejgwV deV levgw eij" CristoVn kaiV eij" thVn ejkklhsivan. The term mysterion is a terminus technicus in Second Temple Judaism that refers to something that has been hidden in a text and is now uncovered. The relationship between man and woman was always meant to function as a picture between Christ and His Church. “Nevertheless” (plhVn), v. 33, this does not diminish the other reasons the relationship exists, and as such, husbands and wives ought to take their relationship queues from the relationship between Christ and the Church.
The phrase plhVn kaiV uJmei'" oiJ kaq= e{na is difficult Greek, but hJ deV gunhV i{na fobh'tai toVn a[ndra is clearer (although I’d like to study i{na + subjunctive, as it is used as an imperative more). The former phrase is likely an affirmation of what I said above: that even though the relationship is to function as a picture of Christ and the Church, and these words apply more to that relationship than they do the relationship of the husband and wife, the husband and wife are still one, and as such, the husband ought to love his wife as himself and the woman ought to recognize her husband’s God-given authority to work toward presenting her unstained by the world.


  1. I appreciate the argument. The greek doesn't show on my computer. Is that a fault of my software?

  2. And awful awful paragraph spacing.

  3. No, that's totally me. My word program and fonts I was using don't convert well. It took a couple years for me to notice because it reads correctly on my computer. One of these days I need to go back and plug in the right fonts.