My wife and I love the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. Ray Barone is a sportswriter who lives on Long Island with his wife Debra and their three children. His meddlesome parents Frank and Marie live across the street. His jealous brother Robert lives nearby.
We also love the more recent The King of Queens. Doug Heffernan is a truck driver who lives in Queens with his wife Carrie and her crazy father Arthur.
Both of these shows hilariously portray the situations and struggles that married couples face. But on a deeper level, they reveal our culture’s attitude about a woman’s role in marriage.
Ray and Doug are irresponsible and lazy. They just want to watch sports, hang out with their friends, and shirk all responsibility. Debra and Carrie are the responsible ones who pay the bills, handle problems, and care for their families.
Our culture also has several sayings that reveal its attitude toward marriage. These include, “Happy wife, happy life,” and, “When mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy!” It’s common for a husband to be “whipped,” and for a wife to “wear the pants” in the relationship.
These shows and sayings are amusing, but what isn’t amusing is the truth they convey – wives no longer respect their husbands.
The Myth of Mutual Submission
Ephesians 5:22-24 says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church…Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
This is what the New Testament clearly and consistently teaches about marriage. Yet this teaching is offensive in our feministic culture. Many preachers have replaced it with the myth of “mutual submission.”
Preachers say that if a man truly loves his wife, she will gladly submit to him. So if she isn’t submitting to him, it’s his own fault. They also say that husbands should submit to their wives by selflessly meeting her needs.
Deconstructing the Myth
Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands “as the church submits to Christ.” The church doesn’t perfectly submit to Jesus, does it? So does that mean there is something wrong with His headship? Is He somehow failing to lead the church in love? No, of course not! It just means there is still disobedience and rebellion in our hearts.
The same is true of husbands and wives. Although a woman is married, there is still disobedience and rebellion in her heart. She must put those desires to death and submit to her husband. It is her responsibility, not his.
To justify the idea of mutual submission, preachers quote Ephesians 5:21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” They use this verse to interpret the following section on marriage.
But marriage isn’t the only relationship Paul discusses. He says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). He also says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear” (Ephesians 6:5).
Why isn’t Ephesians 5:21 applied to these passages as well? Does anyone say parents should submit to their children, or masters should submit to their slaves? No, of course not! It doesn’t make sense for someone to submit to those under their authority. So why should a husband submit to his wife?
Why You Should Submit
God takes our attitude toward our spouse seriously. Peter tells husbands to be considerate and respectful “so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7). He seems to be saying that if we treat our wives harshly, God won’t answer our prayers!
But a wife’s attitude is just as important. Paul tells wives, “Submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” There is a direct connection between a woman’s submission to her husband and her submission to Jesus.
If you won’t submit to your earthly husband, how will you submit to your heavenly Bridegroom? If you won’t submit to your husband, what does this imply about your obedience to Jesus?
Why is submission such a difficult concept? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!
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19 thoughts on “Deconstructing the Myth of Mutual Submission”
Your argument with Ephesians 5:21 is new to me and very strong. Good article!
Thanks Ted! You helped me develop my thinking on this topic. You were the first person I heard ask, “So what’s wrong with Jesus’ headship?”
I don’t think that this sits well with the spirit of “christ did not take equality with God as grounds to…” etc.
If husbands are first they must be last. So I take that a man should seem whipped because the stronger for the sake of the weaker must not lord it over them. In fact, we should let them take the lead sometimes to prove we serve by washing feet, etc.
(Maybe thats why husbands give foot rubs?!)
But my main issue with young women these days is plain “princess-itis” which even would make a die hard feminist angry. But i could say the same of young men with “i dont have to think.” No man or woman should feed a spouses sense of entitlement!
Philippians 2:6 describes Jesus’ relationship with God, not His relationship with the church. Yes, He is in full submission to God; but He still has full authority over the church. He uses His position of authority to serve us rather than take advantage of us. But He still has full authority, and we must submit to His headship.
In the same way, husbands ought to be in full submission to God and lead their wives by serving them sacrificially. But they still have full authority over their wives, and their wives must submit to their headship. Paul explains this chain of authority in 1 Corinthians 11:3: “Now 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.”
Let me ask you – does Jesus ever “seem whipped”? Does He ever let the church “take the lead”? No, of course not! So why should husbands do this with their wives? We must not minimize a husband’s authority over his wife, for what would that imply about Jesus’ authority over the church? If a wife doesn’t really have to submit to her husband, do we really have to submit to Jesus?
I think Jesus lordship over the church taken point blank to represent a man’s over his wife is going too far. In Christ there is no male or female, and a husband does not purchase his wife’s salvation nor author it.
What if the woman is uneven yoked? Then she must believe alone even if it angers the husband so the husband may be sanctified.
I think this is a circular discussion though till we pierce the heart of the matter. What do you mean by submission? What does it look like?
And last I checked Jesus was literally whipped a good 39 times for his church… If that’s what you mean by male dominance then why is taking a bit of hen pecking to give grace to a wife so offensive to you? In the prophets God often depicts himself as absorbing Israel’s adultery, does that make him a bad husband model? He shows his sovereignty in grace, so a husband showing grace and allowing the mare to thrash a bit seems par for the course.
I really wonder if you’ve been hurt by someone, or need someone to talk too. Being right on such matters is not very important to me, but I do worry when I hear a man promote some sort of gender role in terms of submission. We are all to submit to each other male or female in christian life… a wedding vow for this life does not remove that which pertains to the other.
Submission to Christ is never the same as submission to anything else. We are told to respect and submit to the magistrate, but for reasons of conscious we often must disobey. Yet God places the magistrate, so is refusing the kings idols not submitting to God? I think not.
It seems you are really pressing to hear what you want on this. What motivates you to say women should submit?
I don’t mean this smartly, but earnestly. To what telos is your theological position.
Let me make several points in response:
First, you say Jesus’ lordship does not represent a husband’s authority. Yet this is exactly what Paul says: “The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church…so wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:23-24). What other explanation of this passage can there be?
Second, this has nothing to do with salvation. The context of Galatians 3:28 (“there is no male or female”) makes it clear that Jesus saves men and women alike. But that doesn’t nullify the fact that God assigns them different roles in marriage and the church.
Third, wives must submit even to unbelieving husbands. Peter says, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words” (1 Peter 3:1). Paul says, “If a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him” (1 Corinthians 7:13).
Fourth, “submission” is when a wife acknowledges her husband’s authority and obeys him with respect. Let me add that God expects us to use our authority properly. Paul addresses both husband and wife when he says, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:18-19). Peter threatens that God won’t answer our prayers if we mistreat them (1 Peter 3:7)!
Fifth, Jesus was whipped for the church, not by the church. He suffered and died for our sins, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to submit to His authority over us.
Sixth, you claim God “absorbs Israel’s adultery” and “shows his sovereignty in grace.” Yet He says of her, “She is not my wife, and I am not her husband” (Hosea 2:2). He sends the Babylonian and Roman armies to destroy her and carry her into exile. Jesus says to the church in Laodicea, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline” (Revelation 3:19).
Seventh, I responded to Ephesians 5:21 in my post. Did you not read it entirely before commenting on it?
Eighth, Paul tells us to obey the magistrate because he was appointed by God. In doing so, he invokes the same principle in Romans 13 that I am invoking here. If I refuse to submit to the magistrate, how can I submit to God who appointed him? In the same way, if a wife refuses to submit to her husband, how can she submit to Christ who is the head of her husband?
Ninth, you charge me with hearing what I want to hear. But I charge you with not hearing what you don’t want to hear! I am motivated to say wives should submit because the Bible says wives should submit. I haven’t been hurt by anyone, nor do I need counseling; I’m just tired of women deliberately disobeying what the Bible clearly says.
Sigh, you first change my words “Jesus lordship does not represent” I did not say that. I said exactly represent. But if such subtly is not acceptable to you than there’s really no talking… so the first part is just wind.
Second, if submission is God’s will it has to do with salvation. “If you love me obey.” Sola fide does not strip James power “show me your works.” So that’s more of a breeze.
Paul says a woman is unbound if a non believer wants to leave… I’m not gonna play rob Peter to pay Paul. There’s also husbands put your wives before your bodies. And its hard to say a fist century Jew would say go naked for her to be clothed but don’t be emotionally shamed so she isn’t. That’s way to fruedian.
Your fifth point is erroneous. If the church is composed of God’s enemies (Romans)and his blood be on us and our children then to reject our complacency in his death is to reject salvation. If one even thinks that blood is a curse they don’t get the Moses reference.
Sixth point is kinda off topic. God rebukes Isreal yet sends Jesus to die for her. Again we are getting to salvation isn’t earned and no saint is better inherently than a sinner. God doesn’t save us because we are better than anyone. Otherwise it’s merit.
Your eight point also has me wondering if you condemn the maryters that refused to submit to Ceaser? There is always an exception. ..
You complain I don’t read your post then proof text arguments for things I have not said I disagree with. I have not said they shouldn’t submit, I have been pressing for contextulization of the verse so that the majority of the Gospel drives the minor point. Submission is a very loaded term, and it’s cruel to ignore peoples sensitivities or how the Church has been misogynist at times.
Disagreeing with your conclusion is not saying you are 100% wrong. And I wonder why you’d be so aggressive on this point.
So let’s proof context. Your tithing your dill and such… you promote a law, and if a law could bring life…
Or should we go for how the Church is innocent in Jesus’s wounds? You build tombs for the prophets and say you would have listened… You say people should submit, but offer nothing to lighten the load.
And why do you care what women do or don’t do. What about John? Peter that’s between me and him. Don’t you have any logs to toss?
And why is women a group character? I think Arab women are very submissive… fat lot of good it does them.
Sorry, your on my nerves now. You seem to me to be making this dichtomous and isolating someone who partially agrees with you because they don’t fully and want to discuss the finer points. It’s not either/ or. Should we go for the absurd? That a woman should submit to a husband that beats her to pay to an idol? And were do we cut off basic human dignity to lift up male dominance? Where does male and female in his image lose that last bit of rib? Maybe we shouldn’t take as black and grey something God was big enough to leave differing views on.
Which is why I’ve left of that your quoting limited Greek manuscript traditions and that there are reasons to take pause on the house codes. I also don’t think those are public interweb issues. Neither should we discuss that the Spirit is still active, and can push individuals to show grace as it wants as long as there’s no blatant contradiction. I also don’t appreciate someone saying I’m to generous, it’s not their business!
The Christian divorce rate is 50% and conservatives tend to fair worse. If you want my two sense telling women let men handle things makes them complacent and lazy. They need responsibility to feel invested, sometimes that means calling the shots. A Dr. is a servant, but you follow his orders. So service is just as much her directing you.
I’m not trying to isolate you – you are not my enemy! But you disagreed with me and challenged my position in a public forum. Do I not have the right to respond and defend my position in that same public forum, especially if that forum is my own blog? You say you don’t think these issues should be discussed online. But then why did you raise your objections in the first place? Or do you just think my opinion shouldn’t be expressed online? If you are free to express your opinion on someone else’s blog, am I not free to express my opinion on my own blog?
Neither am I trying to annoy you or misrepresent what you’re saying. I’m just trying to respond to your objections as I understand them.
Permit me to point out a few more Scriptures:
Proverbs 31:10-31 describes “a wife of noble character.” She is hard-working and productive. She cares for her family and manages her household. I would also argue that she submits to her husband. 31:23 says, “Her husband is respected at the city gate.” How can he be respected by others if he isn’t respected by his own wife? Proverbs often speaks of the burden of a quarrelsome (unsubmissive) wife. We can assume this is not referring to the wife in Proverbs 31.
A woman’s desire to rebel against her husband is part of the curse. God punishes Eve with these words, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). Paul says, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission…For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:11-13). A wife’s submission to her husband is fundamental in human relationships. Eve had no desire to rebel against Adam until after she sinned. But Christ empowers wives to put this desire to death and submit to their husbands with joy.
Be careful not to misrepresent what I’m saying either. I never said we should submit to the government to the point of denying Christ. I never said wives should submit to their husbands to that point, either. Our submission is ultimately and finally to Jesus. If anyone pressures us to disobey Him, we must disobey them instead.
You seem to think “submission” means mistreating and dominating our wives. But I have maintained a husband’s responsibility to treat his wife well throughout this entire discussion. It might be helpful for you to read another post I wrote a few years ago. It’s called Cultivating Your Wife, and it promotes the servant style of leadership you’re pushing for here.
The bottom line for me is your failure to present a more compelling interpretation of the Scriptures. You haven’t treated Ephesians 5:22-33 at all, although that is the chief passage in this discussion. Neither have you responded to any of the household codes I’ve been quoting. If you want to change my mind, you’ll have to offer a better explanation of the Scriptures than I do. If you can’t, then instead of trying to change my position, perhaps you ought to change your own.
Well, I didn’t say you couldn’t have an opinion. More that it’s not Christian to be rude discussing it. Just because you’re online you don’t get an out from “love one another.”
I’m also trying to avoid “proof texting” on a cell phone it’s rather hard.
I can say Eph 5, Col. 3, Tit. etc. all bear similarities to stoic and Greek sources (ISBE), so they are more about the surrounding culture than the transformative nature and POSSIBLITIES in Christ. They are also aimed to work in that culture as a mode of evangelism as evidenced by 1Peter 3:1. But the basic principle is others first Eph 5:21 and that includes husbands putting wives first. The command to put her before ones body in that century meant more than just corporal things.
The issue for me is the Gnnostics and fathers went a bit anti-women, and the verse about saved through Childbearing looks to be an addition to the text as the rest of Paul’s teaching is saved by faith.
But Paul in Gallations and his recognition of females as colleagues is clear in his Epistles and Acts.
But let’s get into it. I Tim is deutroPauline (I don’t know if you have Greek, just reading it you can kinda tell) but the section in 2.8 is a traditional helinistic Jewish take that only Eve and not Adam was deceived. But if you read Gen 2 he takes it, hears the news and eats, then to hide HIS sin blames the woman. The Greek/Latin culture had the myth of Pandora that feed this kind of thinking. So it may be evidence of the author restating traditional Jewish ideals, or if it is Paul it’s probably for a particular context.
1 Cor 14:33-35 is mostly marked as meddled with because it appeals to Jewish law which Paul makes pains to say is dead. And even if we take it, 1 Cor 11.5 assumes he is letting women pray and prophesy, just not disturb the congregation by inopportune actions. The head covering of hair is for him a sign of their authority to do so.
What I am arguing for, though, is that while some cantankerous women are just that, it is not a sole duty if women to submit. And this is the first time you’ve delineated any definition of submission.
Submission, like it or not, carries a connotation you must address if you’re going to use the word. Even in the church, a view of women needing to be passively accepting has a checkered history because one woman who submits to God unknowingly became the focus of one of the largest virgin/fertility cults of Rome.
I am also motivated by Mark 3:31, were Jesus’s family the Church is made primary over his biological family. So the serve one another there, will always superseed the “submit at home.”
What it drives me to, is a need for both husbands and wives to serve each other in Christ. Not for women specifically as though only they bear the blame. If we go back to Gen 2-3 the make tendency is to blame the woman as part of how sin has broken the male/female relationship.
That’s why I haven’t said I disagree, but why I don’t like how your original post came across as a call only for women to change. Men need to change how they act towards women as well.
The other issue coming up is an unruly wife that doesn’t listen or embarrasses her husband. That isn’t dealt with by a rule or law saying “you need to listen to him.” As Christians we must remain firm in the conviction that the Law does not give life and at best was a custodian (per Paul). We hold Grace gives life, and sometimes grace isn’t arguing for the sake of being right… its a subject unto itself.
Now, I would also ask if Paul was speaking to a culture what other radical ways can Christ be breaking into male/female dynamics. His own method of teaching women and having them witness the resurrection was a huge cultural break. But it fits a man who tells someone that complains about the Sabbath “God never rested, neither do I.” He’s not gonna go into a box. So Paul smashed it with the neither Greek/Jew, free/slave, nor male/female. Our Gospel is not to describe how to live in any of those boxes but above them. And the highest calling is mutual love and submission.
I hope you catch that this tone is different than what you originally posted. It’s one that doesn’t jump to any specific verse yet takes the whole into reading the part. Yeah very much Augustine, but I think it’s the most biblical method. I can hope on a PC if you want to hammer it out text by text; I don’t really think at this point we have to.
I am only pointing out to look to our logs before others splinters, and that Christians concern themselves with the rights of others giving tunics when sued for cloaks.
Like I said, our Christian divorce rate is not any better than the wider society that really truly also feels men are socially dominate to women abd often point it out. If we do the same only, we haven’t put anything new in abd shouldn’t expect different results (see insanity).
Unfortunately, our discussion must come to an end. This is for a few reasons:
First, you called me rude. I have said nothing to insult or discredit you. My responses have dealt only with the topic at hand. However, you have made several rude comments to me: “I really wonder if you’ve been hurt by someone, or need someone to talk to;” “it seems you are really pressing to hear what you want on this;” “if such subtlety is not acceptable to you then there’s really no talking;” “I’m wondering if you condemned the martyrs that refused to submit to Caesar?;” “don’t you have any logs to toss?;” “you’re on my nerves now;” “it’s not Christian to be rude discussing it;” “just because you’re online you don’t get an out from ‘love one another’;” “I don’t like how your original post came across.”
I was willing to overlook these comments until now. If you want to be taken seriously, you cannot go on someone else’s blog, made rude comments to them, and then falsely accuse them of being rude to you!
Second, you are refusing to deal with the relevant texts. My entire post was based on Ephesians 5:22-24. Yet you have offered no treatment of it even after I asked you to! Rather than explaining these verses, you are evading them. And instead of explaining the household codes, you made vague remarks about their historical context and questionable claims about their authorship. You have proven yourself incapable of offering a valid alternative to my interpretation.
For these reasons I will no longer allow you to comment on this post. If you wish to comment on future posts, conduct yourself as a gentleman and respond to my questions.
I believe in mutual submission, but my belief and understanding of it isn’t built upon Ep 5:21. There are other Biblical principals and examples that buttress the idea of mutual submission in marriage.
The Greek word for submit is Hupotasso (Strong’s # 5293). It means to to arrange under, to subordinate, to subject, to yield to one’s admonition or advice, obey.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ec 3:1). With that in mind, there maybe times and seasons in a marriage when a husband should “submit” to the wisdom of his wife.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking (Jm 1:5).
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding (Pr 4:7).
The Bible teaches that wisdom is a virtue that BOTH men and women should acquire. In other words, wisdom isn’t just for wives seeking to be like the Pr 31 woman. Proverbs lists the characteristics of a wise man:
A wise man will LISTEN and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel (Pr 1:5).
A wise man is he who LISTENS to counsel (Pr 12:15).
LISTEN to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise (Pr 19:20).
According to the lexicon, one of the definitions for LISTEN (shama 8085) is “to obey, be obedient.” According to Proverbs, listening (to wisdom) is a general principle that EVERYONE should follow. Husbands don’t get a free pass. Therefore, husbands should listen (defined as obey) to the wisdom of their wives when necessary, and there are examples of that in the Bible.
Abraham listened to the wisdom of his wife.
But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. LISTEN (8085) to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned” (Gen 21:12).
Hannah’s husband submitted to the vow that she made to the Lord (1 Sam 1:11, 21-23).
This is especially relevant since an OT husband could lawfully cancel a vow made by his wife. Hannah’s husband didn’t do that; he didn’t pull rank. Instead, he listened to the wisdom of his wife.
Xerxes listened to Esther’s plea about reversing Haman’s order to destroy the Jews (Es 8:5, 9:13). This is significant because after the king had signed and sealed a decree or given his permission for a decree to be signed and sealed, it was not to be repealed or revoked (Es1:19, Es 3:9-12). However, Xerxes listened to the wisdom of his wife and revoked the decree to kill the Jews.
Nabal was foolish. Proverbs really sheds light on that by listing the traits of a foolish person:
… fools despise wisdom and instruction (Pr 1:7b).
Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words (Pr 23:9).
Therefore, we can infer that Nabal “despised wisdom and instruction” because he was foolish, and that’s likely why Abigail didn’t discuss her plan of action with him beforehand. As a wise woman, Abigail likely understood that Nabal would “scorn her prudent words.” Unlike Nabal, David acknowledged and affirmed Abagail’s capacity to “speak with wisdom, and faithful instruction.” (Pr 31:26, 1 Sam 25:24-34) David listened to Abigail and decided not kill Nabal and the men in his house. Nabal demonstrated what can happen when a husband is unapproachable and unwilling to listen to the wisdom of his wife when necessary.
Speaking with wisdom is a characteristic of a virtuous wife (Pr 31:26). Apparently, Abraham, Elkanah and Xerxes understood that. Unfortunately for him, Nabal didn’t get it.
Modern day examples of husbands listening to the wisdom of their wives:
Suggested reading: http://www.theologyforwomen.org/2014/11/the-voice-of-helper.html
Ep 5:21 aside, there are examples in scripture of husbands listening to the wisdom of their wives when it was appropriate. Considering those examples, it would behoove husbands to listen to (obey) the wisdom of their wives when it’s appropriate. After all, let us not forget what Proverbs 31:26 says about a virtuous woman, “she speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” In a nutshell, this is mutual submission in marriage – wives submitting to their husbands and husbands listening to the wisdom of their wives.
What a great response! Thank you for disagreeing so thoughtfully and respectfully.
Nothing you say here is incompatible with my position. A wise husband will indeed ask for and at times follow his wife’s advice. But this does not change the fact that “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.” Nor does it relieve wives of their responsibility to “submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24). The husband still has authority over his wife, and she must still place herself under it. You go too far when you say a husband “submits” to his wife by taking her advice.
It also seems there are times when a wife shouldn’t offer her advice. Peter says a woman’s beauty should be “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” He tells wives to be “like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master” (1 Peter 3:4, 6). Paul says (in the context of worship), “A woman must learn in quietness and full submission…she must be silent” (1 Timothy 2:11-12).
Your argument doesn’t include any reference to the household codes in the New Testament. But it plainly tells wives to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 3:1-6). In order to be compelling, a theology of submission must be able to adequately explain these passages.
Thanks again for such an excellent response!
Thank you for allowing me to post here. I read your article on Cultivating Your Wife, and I agree with what you say in that post.
Zack Donaldson said, “Nothing you say here is incompatible with my position. A wise husband will indeed ask for and at times follow his wife’s advice. But this does not change the fact that “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.”
I agree. The Bible clearly states that the husband is head of the wife. That’s a description and not an instruction. It describes the relationship between husbands and wives. A husband’s position or status as “head” is not a mandate or commandment, but it’s an immutable state of being. It is immutable as it relates to the covenant relationship of marriage. The only thing that can sever a husband’s headship over his wife is divorce or death.
Zack Donaldson said, “Nor does it relieve wives of their responsibility to “submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24). The husband still has authority over his wife, and she must still place herself under it.”
I agree. I acknowledged a wife’s duty to submit to her husband when I said, “In a nutshell, this is mutual submission in marriage – WIVES SUBMITTING TO THEIR HUSBANDS and husbands listening to the wisdom of their wives.”
Zack Donaldson said, “You go too far when you say a husband “submits” to his wife by taking her advice.”
I’m referring to the literal definitions of words here. The definition for submit (hupotasso, Strong’s # 5293) is OBEY. The definition for listen (shama, # 8085) is OBEY. Listening is a form of obedience. God told Abraham to LISTEN to whatever Sarah tells you … Gen 21:12.
Therefore, to some degree, obedience should be mutual in a marital relationship. A husband can obey his wife by listening to her wisdom. Again, I’m not pulling that out of thin air. That’s what happened between Sarah and Abraham in Gen 21:12.
Zack Donaldson said, “It also seems there are times when a wife shouldn’t offer her advice.”
I agree. The Bible tells us that “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: (Ec 3:1) A TIME TO BE SILENT and a time to speak (v. 7B).”
There are several verses in the Bible that buttress the value of being silent, quiet (without words): Pr 17:27A, Pr 13:3, Pr 21:23.
ALL Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). Therefore, we aren’t confined or limited to just the verses that Peter and Paul wrote. We have ALL scripture, the entire counsel of God to consider, and there are several verses that buttress the value of speaking up in a respectful manner.
What the Bible says about speaking up:
A wife can protect herself by speaking wise words. “What a fool says brings a rod to his back, but the words of the wise protect them.” Pr 14:3
A wise wife can bring healing by speaking up. “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Pr 12:18 “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Pr 16:24
A wife can deflect anger by giving her husband a gentle answer. “A gentle answer deflects anger…” Pr 15:1
When a wife gives her husband an honest answer, metaphorically, it’s like kissing her husband on the lips. “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” Pr 24:26
Pr 31:10 tells us that a wife of noble character “opens her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” Therefore, one of the primary functions of a wise wife is speaking (opening her mouth) with wisdom.
When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. FOR IF YOU REMAIN SILENT AT THIS TIME, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Es 4:12-14
Those who have read the book of Esther know that she didn’t remain silent (without words). She spoke to her husband about what was going on. As a result, Esther helped save the Jews from annihilation.
Being silent (without words) is Biblical, and it can beneficial. However, the win without words response is NOT the only Biblical or beneficial response. The Bible also has a lot to say and illustrate about the value of speaking up in a timely, wise and gentle manner.
Zack Donaldson said, “Peter says a woman’s beauty should be “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” He tells wives to be “like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master” (1 Peter 3:4, 6).
Gentleness is a unisex fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22). BOTH men and women are instructed to be gentle toward others: Ep 4:2, Tit 3:2.
Being quiet isn’t just something that wives should do. The Bible teaches that BOTH men and women should lead quiet lives and be slow to speak. Pr 11:12B, 1 Thes 4:9-11, 1 Tim 2: 1-4, Jam 1:19.
BOTH men and women should cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit, and that’s confirmed in several verses. Gentleness and quietness aren’t strictly for women and/or wives.
Zack Donaldson said, “Your argument doesn’t include any reference to the household codes in the New Testament. But it plainly tells wives to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 3:1-6). In order to be compelling, a theology of submission must be able to adequately explain these passages.”
Well, that’s because I’m not denying a wife’s duty to submit. That’s plainly stated in the Bible in multiple places. I’m not denying it. I’m not denying wifely submission, but I am advocating that it’s a husband’s duty and in his best interest to listen (defined as obey) to the wisdom of his wife when appropriate.
Again, there is nothing that is incompatible with my position. Nor is there anything I disagree with. I just don’t think it’s appropriate to call what you’re describing “mutual submission.”
Here is your argument (as I understand it): The Greek word “submit” can mean “obey”; the Hebrew word “listen” can mean “obey”; therefore, a husband “obeys” his wife by listening to her; this is mutual submission. However, “submit” and “listen” are not an exact comparison.
The New Testament uses the word “submit” (hypotasso) in contexts that imply authority.* For example: “Then Jesus went down to Nazareth with [his parents] and was obedient to them” (Luke 2:52). “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1). “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect” (1 Peter 2:18).
Submission implies authority. But a wife does not gain authority over her husband when he listens to her advice. Therefore, it is inappropriate to say he “submits” to her. You are simply stretching the definition too far.
It is the same between Jesus and the church. Does He let us freely speak our mind? Absolutely! But do we somehow gain authority over Him? Does He become subject to us? Absolutely not. There is no mutual submission between Jesus and the church, so there cannot be mutual submission between a husband and wife.
*Interestingly, this is the word Paul uses in Ephesians 5:21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” But instead of describing mutual submission between a husband and wife, it describes mutual submission between all believers. But what does this mean? Is every believer subject to the authority of every other believer? That would be ludicrous! Rather, it is another way of saying, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Zack Donaldson said, “Does anyone say parents should submit to their children, or masters should submit to their slaves? No, of course not! It doesn’t make sense for someone to submit to those under their authority.
Parent listening to grown children:
So Mordecai went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. Es 4:17
Mordecai raised Esther. She was his adopted daughter, but there came a time when it was necessary for Mordecai to obey Esther’s orders.
There are modern day examples of parents submitting to their children. Ec 3:1 states that “there is a time for everything.” In life, many adult children have to make decisions for sick and/or elderly parents. This role reversal is known as parenting elderly parents or care-giving for elderly parents. Elderly parents often become SUBJECT to their adult children’s decision making. It happens all the time. One well known example – many adult children have taken keys away from aging parents because they are not capable of driving safely anymore.
Master listening to slave:
Naman listened to his wife’s servant girl and his male servants (2 kings 5:2,3,13,14).
Again, this is not incompatible with my position. These are instances of parents listening to their grown children. But when children are grown, they are no longer under their parents’ authority. So this is not an example of someone submitting to those under their authority. And the fact that Naaman listened to his slaves’ advice doesn’t mean they suddenly had authority over him. Rather, they were still under his authority.
I suppose the closest example would be a wife who makes decisions for her husband because he is too old or unaware. But even in this instance, the wife does not become the head of her husband.
Zack Donaldson said, “Proverbs 31:10-31 describes “a wife of noble character.” She is hard-working and productive. She cares for her family and manages her household. I would also argue that she submits to her husband. 31:23 says, “Her husband is respected at the city gate.” How can he be respected by others if he isn’t respected by his own wife?”
The husband described in Pr 31:23 is a man like Job. Job was known in the gates and sat among the elders of the land (Job 29:7-25). Job was known because of his own actions. He assisted the poor and orphans. He helped those without hope. Everything he did was honest. He served as eyes for the blind and feet for the lame. He was a father to the poor. He broke the jaws of godless oppressors. People listened to his advice. Unfortunately, Job’s wife was not a virtuous woman, yet that had no bearing on Job’s actions because he was a man of wisdom and faith. Although it’s not a wife’s duty to make her husband known in the gates, wives should not hinder their husbands(Pr 31:12). Thanks to Job, we know what it looks like for a man to be respected at the gates because Job demonstrated that for us.
Many people have used Pr 31:23 to shift a man’s duty to earn respect at the gates onto his wife’s shoulders and make it her responsibility, but that’s not what Job’s example illustrates for us. Wives should indeed respect their own husbands (Eph 5:33). However, earning respect at the gates (publicly) is a man’s own responsibility. Job wasn’t known at the gates because of anything his wife did or didn’t do. He was known and respected at the gates because of his own actions, dedication and hard work.
This is another great response. I’m not trying to make a husband’s respect outside the home his wife’s responsibility. I agree that a man must earn his respect “at the city gate.” I’m just arguing that it’s difficult for a man who isn’t respected at home to be respected at work or in the community.
But this is beside the point. The question remains – should we think the “wife of noble character” submits or does not submit to her husband? She may offer him good advice, but she is still subject to his authority.