Q – Doesn’t the Bible say that wives are to submit to their husbands as their ‘head’?
A – Yes and No. Yes, only if the term ‘head’ (Greek: kephale) is understood as ‘origin’ or ‘source’ without the meaning of rank. The Bible teaches mutual submission between spouses.
1 Corinthians 11:3 reads: ‘But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.’ Here, the term ‘head’, from the Greek kephale, is to be understood as ‘source’ or ‘origin’ without the idea of rank and has as its meaning the idea of chronology and not hierarchy. For more on 1 Cor 11:3.
Ephesians 5:22-24 reads: ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.’
Firstly, it is key to note that just prior to these verses, verse 21 says: ‘…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.’ Secondly, being ‘head’ meant that husbands were to be the source (kephale) of love, care and provision for their wives as Christ is for the Church. It did not mean that they were to be their lords or have rank above their wives as Christ has over the Church.
For further explanation:
CLICK ON THE QUESTION OR ANSWER FOR A FULLER EXPLANATION
Excellent! This is a reblog from a reblog! It’s about being female and in the image of God. Loved it!!!
If you give a girl a Bible, she’s going to ask her Father what it means. When he begins to explain it to her in the quiet of her soul, she’s going to know she has a gift and know she’s made for more. When the gift becomes his glory, she’s going to use it all the time. So she will sing or plan or teach or write. When she’s done she’ll share those gifts with you and she’ll want to read some more.
She might do something unrefined or something strange indeed, but she is more than mommy, sister, wife, and matcher of the socks. She is the very image of a God who lives outside the box.
If you give a girl a label, though, and strip away her clothes, Her Almighty Father will run right back to her and tell you where to keep your nose. The…
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Biblical texts are often used as proofs for our own particular set of Christian values. Among those are texts which appear to subject women to men and wives to their husbands. But do these texts mean what many have ascribed to them?
Clarity for these texts are found in careful consideration of each passage in its own context and by avoiding transferring our own ideologies into the text. In the next posts I will cover two passages that speak of a husband’s headship in order to give some idea of their original meaning in context.
The first text, 1Corinthians 11:3, reads: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
Here, the term “head”, from the Gk. kephale, is to be understood as “source” or “origin” without the idea of rank and has as its meaning the idea of chronology and not hierarchy.
To further substantiate this, the sequence in 1Cor 11:3 shows that hierarchy wasn’t the meaning. The sequence in the text is: Man – Christ, Wife – Husband, Christ – God
If hierarchy was the meaning, then it would have had this order: Wife – Husband, Man – Christ, Christ – God
Thirdly, hierarchical interpretation of this passage begs the question, is the ascended Christ, the Son of God, under God? As the Word, having been equal to God, He relinquished His equality for our salvation, but isn’t He restored to equality with God with ALL authority in heaven and earth? And, only at the end will He subject Himself to God again (see 1 Cor 15:28).
Order by chronology according to origin/source:
The source of every man is Christ (ADAM was made by Christ)
The source of the woman is the man (Eve came from Adam; also descriptive of that time when a husband was the main provider of physical resources and spiritual food which he could access more easily and from which she was often deprived access)
The source of Christ is God (Christ from God, Begotten of God, God became flesh to be the Christ)
Consider Cyril of Alexandria (5th century): “Thus we say that the kephale of every man is Christ, because he was made through Him and brought forward to birth…. And the kephale of woman is man, because she was taken from his flesh and has him as her source. Likewise, the kephale of Christ is God, because He is from Him according to nature.”
Someone may ask, “But, isn’t the husband meant to be the leader if he is the head?” and cite Ephesians 5:22-25: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. This is the second text that I want to reflect on.
Firstly, it is key to note that just prior to these verses, verse 21 says “…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is important because, in order for all the parts of the body of Christ to function properly, submission needs to be universal in the kingdom of God.
Secondly, the term “head” (kephale) has the meaning of “source” and not rank. The focus is on husbands being the source of care for their wives as Christ is for the Church.
Consider that coming out of darkness and oppression is both instantaneous and progressive. So, while we are instantly changed spiritually, we often take time to change behaviorally and it usually takes even longer for the effect of the gospel to change society, even Christian society.
So, just as masters and slaves were prescribed certain behavior in the New Testament and yet slavery was not being endorsed as a Christian ideal, so too, husbands and wives were prescribed certain behavior toward one another in their current context, which was not an endorsement of the status quo where husbands were the main providers and sole leaders and where their wives were heavily dependent and often the only “partner” in submission.
Slavery and subservient wives were the context, but not the ideal to which Christianity was pointing. God-breathed prescriptions were given into these circumstances in which those saved found themselves, which, if carried out wholeheartedly, were a means to a greater end – the emancipation of slaves and women.
Essentially, husbands and wives who came to Christ, were on a journey back to mutuality. On this road, wives were not to use their freedom in Christ to become reactionary, domineering or rebellious, but to remain in submission, a Christian trait for all. And, husbands, who according to verse 21 were to submit too, as the main providers at the time, were to use their circumstantial benefits to help lead toward spousal relationships of equality.
As for us today, while we can all draw from the many truths in this passage, only those who are saved within the highly patriarchal societies will experience a direct correlation with this scripture. Husbands in general have always been the head, being the main source of provision and, by default, since the fall, the leaders. However, if they carry out their role in Christ properly, they would be able to help lead their marriages (and eventually society) to experience mutuality with regards access to resources and the opportunity to lead.
In our modern world where women enjoy a lot more liberty in church and society, husbands are still to provide support for their wives to fully flourish. But, with the opportunities that many wives have, it’s now more of a mutual support of one another than ever before. In some societies we can taste the pre-fall dream of mutuality that was lost at the fall. Certainly Christianity in most places should have moved far from the sad years of men having sole access to the many resources that made them the primary providers and also, sadly, often dominate their wives and women in general. Yet, this is not the case because of narrow views of what certain Scriptures really meant. Worse still, is the modern trend to again enslave women in emancipated Christian society through the ideologies of Patriarchy or Complementarianism.
Gen 1:28: And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Mutuality Lost and Post-fall Dominance:
Gen 3:16: To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
Gal 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
In Christ, husbands and wives should be joint providers, especially of an environment for mutuality. There, Christ is their provider and alone is preeminent in every area.
HIS AND HERS?
We can clearly see in Scripture that wives are expected to submit to their husbands, and that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church and to lay down their lives for them. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph 5:22-25). These particular commands to husbands and wives may appear to absolve wives from the life-sacrificing love that is required from husbands and may also appear to absolve husbands from submitting to their wives.
However, in the broader body we are all expected to lay down our lives for one another and to submit to one another. Consider these scriptures: 1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Eph 5:21, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” In Eph 5:22-24, Paul was having husbands and wives focus on particular areas, but was in no way suggesting that wives were absolved from laying down their lives for their husbands nor husbands from submitting to their wives. Marriage does not nullify the general commands to submit to one another (Eph 5:21) and to lay down our lives for one another (1 John 3:16).
PRACTICING THIS LIFESTYLE
Practicing this kingdom lifestyle in the home has its challenges, which can be even more magnified depending on the context. Consider that in the context which Paul wrote, just as slaves needed a special focused word of exhortation to submit to their masters (see Eph 6:5-8), wives, who had all along generally been treated as 2nd class, also needed a special focused word of exhortation to submit. Especially that, in the light of the freedom of the gospel, it may easily have appeared to them that they needn’t submit to their domineering husbands anymore. Similarly, husbands may have needed a special focused word of exhortation at that time and in their culture to love their wives, as many would have been part of a culture where they treated their wives as 2nd class citizens, always at their beck and call.
In the context of all of scripture, it is clear that the message to husbands and wives universally is to practice a lifestyle of mutual love and submission. In other words, husbands, love means submitting to your wife too (Eph 5:21). Equally, wives, submission means laying down your life for him too (1 John 3:16). See also: Equality in Marriage 1, Equality in Marriage 2 Rob
Countless times I have heard it preached that married women should submit to their husbands and that the man is the head of the home. It is preached straight from the scriptures. Are those who preach submission really preaching straight or are they preaching skew?In the past, Rob and I tried to apply these “truths” at home.
Today I want to use an example from our own marriage to illustrate how head-ship by the husband is not helpful. Immediately after reading this, some of you have alarm bells going off in your heads. You might be surprised to find out that in this context “head” doesn’t mean “authority over.” This article, The Head of the Epistles, explains it nicely. The story below is a portion from my chapter “Who’s in Control?” from my e-book, Happy Moms, Happy Homes.
[My husband and I] were no experts at conflict resolution. I felt caught in the middle of a tug-of-war. Or maybe it was more like a three-way tug-of-war with my husband, God, and me. Fortunately, God won the war, but He had to first teach us how submission works in a marriage. It’s not as simple as some would have us believe. I had come from a highly conservative Christian background where godly women were meant to “know their place.”
I tried the submission route only out of desperation. Did it fix our problems? No, it fell short of expectations and it sometimes flew right back in my face…
I can clearly remember one incident where our idea of submission showed its flaws. At the time, we were staying at my in-laws’ luxury country inn. My husband and I were sitting outside one of their suites while the children were down at their grandma’s house. It had been a lovely day, and the kids had been running around barefoot.
Later that afternoon, as the air began to cool, my husband became concerned that the children could catch a cold. He thought that I was being negligent and told me that I must go down immediately to put socks and shoes on them. I didn’t feel that going right then was a good idea because my mother-in-law had said that she was resting and I didn’t want to disturb her. Also, the kids were indoors so I didn’t think the cold air would bother them for another half-hour or so.
Well, my husband became annoyed. He wanted me to respond to the situation as he thought I should. To keep the peace, I went down, despite my reservations. I tried to be as quiet as possible, but my in-laws’ house was small and their room was right next to the living room where the kids were watching TV. I didn’t stay long, but long enough to have disturbed her rest. I had become trapped between my husband’s expectations and my own conscience. Clearly, submitting in every situation did not always have a favorable outcome.
Why do the scriptures say things like “wives, submit to your husbands” (Eph. 5:22)? There is a verse right before verse 22 that says, “submit one to another” (Eph. 5:21), but it’s easy to glance over this as someone has added a paragraph break with a title above verse 22 that wasn’t in the original text. Chapter breaks, subtitles and even verses can hinder the flow of the author’s original intention. To actually go in depth into the scriptures regarding the portions that people get hung up over would take too much time. My husband and I have given hours to the study of these things and have been richly blessed by other scholars of the Bible. Hopefully, we’ll be posting in more detail on these difficult passages in the future.
One key to good interpretation is context. Another key is to use scripture that is plainly clear to help interpret portions that are hard to understand. One fundamental truth states that there is no longer slave or free, male or female, because we are all under Christ (Gal. 3:28). This scripture was written in order to unify believers. Where there is unity, God commands a blessing. We are not to lord it over each other anymore. We are all heirs of the same promise, and if Christ set us free, then we are free indeed.
I hope I have managed to wet your appetite, because I have more in mind to write and share in the near future.
by Christina (Tina) Morley
Why is it that there are so many messages on the subject of godly women submitting to their husbands and husbands being the spiritual head of the home? Is it because this message is so hard to swallow that we need to keep being reminded of it? I think if we had half a chance to consider how this so-called truth hasn’t improved the lives of Christian married women, we’d chuck it out for something better.
I took my older kids to see the Hunger Games movie. In the beginning of the film, the people of the districts are given a televised message by the mayor. This message is propaganda that serves as an important reminder as to the necessity of the games. Of course, it’s a twisted message that is presented as truth. A message cloaked as truth, if presented often enough, is all too easily embraced by the people.
People follow influential leaders like sheep and this is true of Christians as well. We were given minds to reason and the Holy Spirit and Scripture for instruction, but we too easily accept the majority opinion as truth and fact. This traditional message that says that the husband is the spiritual head of the home is like a pair of shoes that are too tight and cause discomfort and harm. They need to be replaced with a pair that fit and support the feet.
Earlier on in our marriage, when my husband and I disagreed on a matter, he would sometimes play the trump card that he was the leader of the home and it was my role to submit. I have written a chapter in my book, Happy Moms, Happy Homes, titled “Who’s in Control?” Here is an excerpt from that chapter:
Through books, testimonies, and searching the Scriptures, I began learning and experiencing more of the Spirit. I became more attuned to His leading. For me, it became a surrendered life. I no longer wanted to be the one in control, because God knew how to do things better.
Then I got married. My husband and I didn’t live the Christian life as well as we thought we did. We thought we were more Christ-like than we really were. Marriage brought out all our imperfections. When we couldn’t agree on something, the issue of submission would sometimes follow. Neither of us knew exactly how submission was meant to function in the marriage. I, especially, had doubts….
Now, I had no fear in submitting to the Lord, but I did have a few misgivings about submitting to my husband in every situation. How could I let him take the place of God? Was it biblical that I should be controlled by him? Was it my duty just to submit? Well, through it all, the Lord was teaching us both a hard lesson. At the end of the day, the Lord wanted to be the One in control of both of us.