Headship (kephalē) and Submission (hupotassomai) in Ephesians 5:21-33

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

This is a rather technical, seminary-level paper. It contains my careful research on the correct interpretation of the husband-wife relationship in Ephesians 5:21-33.

  1. Introduction
  2. The Relation of Vs. 21 to the Context
  3. The Meaning of "... As to the Lord" (verse 22)
  4. The Denotation of Hupotassomai (verses 21-22, 24; cf. verse 31) 
  5. The Meanings of Kephalē in Ephesians and Colossians
  6. Implications of Ephesians 5:21-33 for the Marriage Relationship 

1. Introduction

A careful reexamination of Paul's great passage on Marriage in Ephesians 5.21-33 is essential in order to lay the proper foundation for any modern approach to Family Life Education which is both Biblical and clear sighted. Until an understanding of the inspired Apostle's message can be agreed upon, there is little hope of an effective Church-wide renewal in. the area of home life.

On the one hand, conservatives such as Seminar leader Bill Gothard stress teachings on God's "Chain-of-Command."1 Others stress an absolute submission to a husband to the degree of sinning at his command.2 On the other hand, a different wing of evangelical Protestantism sees Paul's teaching on female subordination as non-revelatory,3 "a discrepancy within scripture." It is obvious that men's predispositions often guide their understanding of Paul's message.

"We must be careful to interpret the Scripture on its own terms, separating our own presuppositions, in so far as possible, from the teaching of the Apostle. A dozen years ago, F.F. Bruce warned, "There is a ... peril of modernizing Paul. The reader or interpreter ... is frequently tempted to tone down those features in Paul which are felt to be uncongenial, not to say scandalous, by modern standards. It is possible to go along with Paul so far, and then try to go farther, not by accepting more of his teaching, but by subtly and very often unconsciously modifying his concepts so as to bring t em into closer conformity with current thought."5

1 believe that if we really take the time to understand Paul's own terms in the context of his letter to the Ephesians, we will be able to understand his real message. And in understanding and properly applying this inspired message, we will release God's power in our marriages and our homes.

I am using this paper as an opportunity for myself to investigate in depth some of the most debated problems of interpretation of key verses. This may seem tedious and unnecessary to some, but it is essential for my own understanding and confidence in my conclusions. Thus the format of the paper will be four exegetical chapters with a summary of my findings in essay form at the end. Because I am focusing on Paul's teaching on marriage here, I shall exclude the discussion of the Christological, sotieriological, and ecclesiological, teachings of the passage except where they illuminate e- marriage relationship. Though the cultural issue related to Paul's teaching on slavery in the immediate context is an important hermeneutical issue, I must exclude it from this study, which seeks to answer the question: What did Paul seek to communicate to his readers about the essential husband-wife relationship in marriage?

2. The Relation of Verse 21 to the Context

.".. Subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ." (ASV, Ephesians 5.21)

One's understanding of the relation of verse 21 to the context of the passage is crucial to his interpretation of "mutual subjection" with regard to family relationships.

Numbers of commentators and writers on Ephesians 5.21-33 agree with David Fennema, who asserts: "The major theme of' this passage is given in verse 21, where Christians are urged to be subject to one another..."6 Most of these writers see the injunctions that follow as particular examples of the command concerning mutual subjection. Hodge argues that the preceding exhortations are "evidently brought to a close in verse 20 with the words 'to God even the Father.'"7

But this is by no means compelling; when the proper consideration is given to the setting suggested in verses 18-21 the words "out of reverence for Christ" (RSV) quite properly follow.8 A number of these scholars have been careful to notice that though the participle hupotassomenoi in verse 21, is structurally part of the preceding sentence,9 the use of the participle as an imperative in Koinē Greek is probable here, thus making the clause rather independent 10 from the preceding finite verb.11 However, the main reason for seeing the reference of hupotassomenoi to what follows rather than to what precedes is that the reference to being filled with the Spirit "does not yield a suitable sense."12

There is much to be said, however, for the view that verse 21 is closely related to what precedes in verses 18-20 and is a transition into the so-called Haustafel (Table of Household Duties) which follows.

First, the fact is that hupotassomenoi is grammatically structured as a dependent participle, probably dependent upon plerousthe (be filled). This is granted by most modern exegetes.13

Second, if verse 21 is taken as the thesis verse of the Haustafel, another difficulty develops: Barth himself characterizes a first reading of the Haustafel as contradictory to such a view of mutual subordination: "Paul seems to enjoin only women, children, and, slaves to give way-not their husbands, parents and masters."14 In an attempt to deal with this objection, Barth seems to require "mutual subordination" to mean "mutual considerateness", a principle that Paul certainly advocates in the Haustafel, but for reasons we shall show below, which he does not mean by hupotassomenoi allēlois in verse 21.15

Third, only when the connection of verse 21 with the verses that precede it is recognized does the flow of Paul's thought become intelligible. Wrenching the Haustafel from the matrix in which it is given in the Scriptures cuts the exegete off from the corrective to his interpretation which is offered by the context. Barth notes, "The unique message of Ephesians is silenced whenever the dominant position of verse 21 over the Haustafel and the peculiarly startling content of the verse are neglected."16 But the essential message of Paul here may be silenced if verse 21 is improperly considered aside from Paul's flow of thought.

Most commentators have recognized that verses 19-20 have reference to the church gathered in a worship setting.17 The fullness of the Spirit is evident in addresses to one another in song,18 worship in song from the heart, and abundant thanksgiving. A parallel passage in Colossians 3.16-17 underscores this free and spontaneous "Spirit-filled congregational worship." A reference to 1 Corinthians 14:26ff sheds further light on the church's early informal gatherings:

"What then, brethren? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson (didachē), a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification."

There was considerable variety, including prophesy. It is interesting in this passage to note the Spirit-given nature of the words and songs. But Paul does not encourage confused ecstatic behavior (verse 33); instead, he admonishes each person to give their part in turn (verses 27, 30, 31), not interrupting one another. The supernatural nature of prophecy does not require the prophet to interrupt his brothers or sisters; "The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets" (verse 32). And God can speak to the congregation in prayer and prophecy through both men and women (1 Corinthians 11.5; Acts 21.9); here there is to be no squelching one because the person is not a clergyman, or elder, or male. There was a recognition that God could speak through each member of the body. It was this reverence for Christ's speaking (cf. Ephesians 5.21b) that motivated the order in the meeting. All should be given opportunity to give out what they had been given by God; none should interrupt another; none should quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5.19-20). It is this mutual subjection to Christ's working, through one another in the worshipping congregation that informs Ephesians 5.21.19

If one agrees that Ephesians 5.21 lies in the context of corporate worship, how does this then relate to the Christian household? Few exegetes seem to have asked this important question. However, James M. Robinson has observed conventional. association and sequence in the NT and in the patristic writings which "relates to church order and brings together some reference to thanksgiving -- whether by hymns, tongues, or prophecy -- and an associated concern for the submission of women."20 He claims "that this combination (Verbindung) is not just artificial and accidental, but arises from comparison with both known passages concerning singing in the NT, Colossians 3.18f and Ephesians 5.19f."21 This combination of corporate worship followed by a statement about submission of women can also be seen in 1 Corinthians 14.26-36 and 1 Tim 2.8-15.22

What then is Paul's train of thought here? The letter of Ephesians has thus far emphasized the unity of the Body of Christ which stems from Christ Himself. This is how I see the steps in the development of this part of the letter:

  1. In Ephesians 4.17-5.17 Paul outlines the moral and spiritual distinctions between Christians and pagans.
  2. 5.18 ("do not get drunk with. wine.., but be filled with the Spirit") is a transition. Pagan drunkenness is contrasted with Christian inebriation -- particularly experienced in Spirit-filled worship (e.g., Acts 2.13, 15-18 where charismatic phenomena are mistaken for drunkenness; Acts 4.31; etc.).
  3. 5.19-21. Then Paul goes on to give the hallmarks of this Spirit-filled worship in a series of dependent, probably modal, participles: "speaking... singing and psalming ... giving thanks .... being subject to one another...."
  4. I personally see verse 22 as the call for wifely submission in the worship context, as seen above, Here, as elsewhere, the submission is not to men in general, but to their own husbands in particular.
  5. Verses 23-31. Because Paul has laid the groundwork for unity of the Body of Christ which stems from Christ Himself, he now proceeds to illustrate the basic marriage relationship using the relationships of unity, love, and submission which exist between Christ and His Church. It is uniquely in Ephesians, with its emphasis upon spiritual unity, that the beautiful relationship between the Christian husband and wife is expounded beyond Paul's rather terse comments about the relationship elsewhere in the NT (e.g., Colossians 3.18).

The implications of this interpretation of the context are important for a proper understanding of Ephesians 5.21-33.

  1. Verse 21 is not seen as the thesis verse for the Haustafel.
  2. Ephesians 5.21-33 must be viewed as a passage with something in common with several other Pauline passages which admonish the submission of wives.
  3. The uniqueness of the passage can be seen in its setting in Paul's epistle of unity. This will be developed in section 6.

3. The Meaning of "... As to the Lord" (Verse 22)

An understanding of the exact significance of verse 22 is necessary to a proper interpretation of the wife's relationship to her husband. and her attitude concerning her role of submission. A variety of meanings have been postulated for the phrase hōs tō kuriō. We shall list them and give reasons for and against accepting each.

The first main division in interpretations is whether to take kurios as the divine Lord or as the husband as his wife's master (cf. 1 Pet 3.6). Sampley feels that the husband as kurios cannot be ruled out as one level of Paul's intended meaning.24 However, two arguments are telling against this:

  1. If husbands were intended as the reference, the plural would be expected instead of the singular.25
  2. The exact parallel in 6.7 (cf. Col. 3.23) requires a divine kurios in contrast to a human master.

Most modern commentators agree that the reference of kurios is to Christ. However, the exact significance of the adverb hōs, (as) is debated. A possible interpretation of hōs is causal, "because you fear the Lord." But the causal usage occurs only with a verbal form, nearly always a participle.26 The simple comparative use of hōs as similarity of the manner of submission would yield, "in the same unrestricted manner with which you subject yourselves to the Lord." Again the parallels in the passage about slaves and masters (6.5-9) preclude this interpretation.

Several commentators take hōs as comparative in the sense that the husband stands in Christ's place (i.e., as head), to his wife. Thus her submission to Christ is given almost sacramentally to her husband. Matthew 25.40 ("as you have done it to the least of these my brethren, you have done it to me") is cited.27

It is, however, the parallel use in Ephesians 6.7 (cf. Colossians 3.23) and its context which fixes the usage here. There the masters are not seen as Christ-figures, but they are to be served hōs tō Christō, hōs tō kuriō. The slaves are instructed to think of themselves as slaves of Christ, and as part of their service to Him, they were to serve from the heart the masters under which they found themselves. Thus a wife's submission to her husband is to be regarded as an aspect of her submission to Jesus the Lord.28

4. The Denotation of Hupotassomai (Verses 21-22, 24; cf. verse 31)

A proper understanding of the word hupotassomai (be subject) is essential to a balanced exegesis of the marital relationship expounded in Ephesians 5.21-33. In our day extremes are obvious. One the one hand, some contend that the content of hupotassomai for the wife is equivalent to the love commanded for the husband29 --and indeed. there is a relation between the ideas. On the other hand, others take hupotassomai as equivalent to "obey" -- and we surely must explore these similarities and distinctions. Just what does hupotassomai imply for the wife? This is our question.

Our first step is to examine the lexical meaning of the word. Etymologically, the word is derived from the preposition hupo (under) and the verb tasso (place, put, arrange). The active voice means "to subordinate, subdue, make subject." The passive voice, then, carries the meaning, "be subject, be obedient."30 Though some lexicographers ignore this,31 the word does have a middle voice, which carries the idea "to submit oneself."32 However, the question arises whether the middle voice carries the sense of "obey",33 or is rather "to submit voluntarily ... to lose or surrender one's own rights or will."

A look at the NT usage of the word will give a better understanding of its particular denotation. The middle and passive voices (which cannot be differentiated morphologically from one another in the present, perfect and imperfect tenses) occur some 29 times (plus two variant readings found in the later mss.). Of these occurrences the passive form could be distinguished 7 times, most often with the passive idea of "being subjected" by force or decree,35 but also with the idea of voluntary submission,36 The texts where the middle voice was distinguishable always seemed to carry the idea of voluntary submission.37

It is enlightening to consider the various patterns of submission in the NT in the middle or passive voice. We see submission to husbands (Colossians 3.18; Titus 2.5; 1 Peter 3.1,5; 1 Corinthians 14.34;38 elliptical: Ephesians 5.22, 24b), to parents (Luke 2.51), to civil authorities (Romans 13.1, 5; Titus 3.1; 1 Peter 2.13), to church leaders (1 Corinthians 16.16; 1 Peter 5.5), to others speaking or singing in congregational worship (Ephesians 5.21;39 1 Corinthians 14.32-40), slaves to masters (Titus 2.9; 1 Peter 2.18), demons to the disciples (Luke 10.17, 20), all creation to God (1 Peter 3.22; Hebrews 2.8c (middle); 1 Corinthians 15.27b, 28a; cf. Romans 8.20a); men to God (Hebrews 12.9; James 4.7 (passive); Ephesians 5.24; cf. Romans 8.7; 10.13), and of Christ to God (1 Corinthians 15.28b). In each case, except Ephesians 5.21 and 1 Corinthians 1.32, the submission is to one who has been placed over the other, either with a natural authority (such as parents, slave owners, civil authorities) or a supernatural authority (such as disciples over demons, or Christ or God over all). In the case of Ephesians 5.21 and 1 Corinthians 14.32, the submission is to a fellow Christian temporarily, while he or she is exercising a charismatic gift or ministry to the community, in recognition that he or she is speaking for God (cf. "in the fear of Christ," Ephesians 5.21), and is in this function "placed over" the others. It is clear, then, that in all the middle and passive uses of hupotassomai in the NT, the root idea of "placed under" is more or less visible. This is the unique denotation of hupotassomai.

But does hupotassomai mean "obey"? It is clear to the reader that obedience is often in view in the above passages to a greater or lesser extent. In fact it is used twice in conjunction with verbs meaning "to obey." In 1 Peter 3.5-6 we read, "So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves [with a gentle and quiet spirit] and were submissive (hupotassomenai, present middle/passive participle) to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed (hupekousen, 1st Aorist active indicative) Abraham...." Here obedience is an example, of submission. In Titus 3.1 we read, "Remind them to be submissive (hupotassesthai, present middle/passive infinitive) to rulers and authorities, to be obedient (peitharchein, present active infinitive), to be ready for any honest work..."' Here "be submissive to rulers" is parallel to "be obedient (to authorities)." 41 It is obvious then, that hupotassomai is able to carry ideas of obedience, although that is not its unique force. However, we must not arbitrarily substitute "obey" wherever hupotassomai occurs. This meaning does not fit well at all in Romans 10.3; 1 Corinthians 14.32; and Ephesians 5.21, for example,42 Thus in the NT, hupotassomai often, but not always, carries overt ideas of obedience (see Fig. 1). Whether or not the connotation of obedience is present in hupotassomai must be determined by the context.

Fig. 1. Overlapping Word Connotations Related to Hupotassomai
Fig. 1. Overlapping Greek Word Connotations Related to Hupotassomai. Larger image.

It is also interesting that hupotassomai can connote the idea of "respect." In Hebrews 12.9 we read, "We have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected (enetrepometha, imperfect middle indicative) them. Shall we not much more be subject (hupotagēsometha, future middle indicative) to the Father of spirits and live?" Here "to respect" 43 is used in parallel with "to submit oneself", and thus can be connoted by hupotassomai (see Figure 1).

A related word, phobeō, contributes more directly to the specific connotation of hupotassomai in Ephesians 5.21-33, occurring in verses 21 and 33. It is used with timaō (honor)44 and agapaō (love) in 1 Peter 2.17. The word comes from a root idea of "to flee" and usually carries the connotation of "be terrified, to fear." However, phobeō can be used with the idea of "respect" for superiors. Probably this began with the idea of respect for fear of one's power to harm,45 but this terror idea is far in the background in some examples.46 In the NT, by far the majority of references refer to fear of harm. However, in 1 Peter 3 we see some clear examples of phobos as respect. Husbands will be won to Christianity "when they see your reverent (en phobō) and chaste behavior" (verse 2). This cannot be an exhortation to the wives to act fearfully; verse 6 specifically forbids this: You follow Sarah's godly example "if you do right and let nothing terrify you" (mē phoboumenai mēdēmian ptoesin).47 Again in verses 15-16 Christians are exhorted to witness to unbelievers "with gentleness and reverence" (meta ... phobou), just after he has charged them to "have no fear" of those that would abuse them. Thus in the references in 1 Pet 3.2 (with regard to wives' behavior toward husbands) and verses 15-16, "fear" must mean "respect, reverence" and not slavish fear.

Fear and love have an interesting relationship in the Bible. sere are enjoined both to fear God and to love Him. 1 John 1.18 reminds us that perfect love casts out all fear, that is, "terror, slavish fear." What remains is "respect." If a wife is not to have slavish fear of a pagan husband who might harm her, how much less is she to live in terror of a Christian husband who extends to her Christ-like self-giving love? Thus phobeomai in Ephesians 5.33 is almost surely to be understood as "respect, reverence."

The final connotation we must see in phobeomai lies in its usage. Nearly always in the NT 48 phobeomai is used with reference to superiors (God, kings, masters) or men who represent superiors.49 Indeed phobeomai is used with hupotassomai in such relationships (Ephesians 6.5; 1 Peter 2.18; 3.2), and "can denote the obedience demanded by the superior authority of masters or husbands...."50

This rather lengthy discussion of the denotations and connotations of hupotassomai and related words has not been tangential to our study of the husband-wife relationship in Ephesians 5.21-33. Only now are we in a position to understand just what hupotassomai means and does not mean in our text. We have noticed that the unique denotation of hupotassomai is the ever-present etymological root idea of "placed under, sub-ordinate"51 (in an ordered relationship). That this idea is present in Ephesians 5.24 is evident from the substitution of phobeomai for hupotassomai in verse 33, since phobeomai is used in the sense of "respect" only in respect of an inferior for a superior. The middle voice adds the sense that this "sub-ordinating" is not forcibly imposed upon. the wife, but is something which she is to voluntarily accept for herself.52 Hupotassomai here does not denote "to obey"; if Paul had meant obedience per se, he would have selected hupakouō, peithomai, or peitharcheō for this purpose. However, hupotassomai clearly can, and probably here does, connote "obedience" which generally follows from recognition of a "sub-ordinate relationship. Again, hupotassomai does not denote "respect, honor, regard", per se, though hupotassomai can connote this since it is generally present if one voluntarily accedes to a "sub-ordinate" relationship.

Indeed, we know that the idea of "respect" is connoted by hupotassomai in verse 24 since phobeomai is substituted for it in verse 33. This "respect" is not, however, intended as "honor for the husband as an equal," as it might be if timaō or entrepō were used, but "respect for a superior." In short, wives in verse 24 are exhorted to "voluntarily accede to the "sub-ordinate" position to their husbands in an ordered relationship" and accord them the "respect" that is fitting to such a relationship.

5. The Meanings of Kephalē in Ephesians and Colossians

For centuries Bible exegetes have assumed that Paul's use of kephalē (head) in Ephesians 5.23 had the sense of "leader, ruler.53 This accords well with the meaning of the Hebrew word rōsh54 and seems natural to us since our English usage includes such concepts as "head of the house, corporate head, head of state," etc. However, when we turn to Greek we find that "in secular usage kephalē is not employed for the head of a society."55 Though rōsh is used 155 times as "chief" of a tribe or class in the OT, whenever this usage is translated in the LXX the Greek is archōn or archēgos (ruler) rather than kephalē (with only four exceptions).56 Since the overwhelming LXX usage is to translate rōsh as "chief, ruler" with a word other than kephalē, and secular Greek usage lacks this meaning, it is likely that Paul's use of kephalē carries another meaning than "chief, ruler."

We may dismiss earlier theories of Paul's source of the head-body concept as the Gnostic Redeemer-Myth, since this development in Gnosticism was too late to be a source for Paul.57

Another theory of Paul's source is a medical-physiological model drawn from conceptions of Paul's time. Though Hippocrates (460-380 BC) and Galen (AD 130-200) held the brain to be in command of the body, "the coordinator and integrator of the body's sensations., the body's chief administrator,"58 it is true also that Paul uses OT psychological models (such as eye, heart, kidneys, etc.) and Paul's images of head and body in Ephesians 4:15-16 and Colossians 2.19 are unique. The exact source of Paul's kephalē imagery is not clear. Nor is his head-body imagery uncomplicated. In 1 Corinthians 12.14-26 the head seems to be co-equal member of the body, while in Ephesians and Colossians the head seems to be the primary member, with the "Body" secondary. This change in metaphor has led Ridderbos to conclude that:

"The qualification 'head' has its own independent significance, regardless of whether the metaphorical mention of a "body" is joined with it... 'Head' and 'body' form two separate figurative categories and retain this independence even when they are linked together... [but] in their connection with each other... they constitute what the Apostle Paul understands by the unity of Christ and the Church."59

However, resolution of these questions is not crucial for our study. Suffice it to say that head and body together signify a unity of Christ with the Church.

What is crucial, however, is that we determine as exactly as we can what Paul means when he refers to Christ as "head", so we can understand in what sense the husband is the head of his wife, This is best done by studying carefully maul's use of kephalē in the closely related letters of Ephesians and Colossians.60

Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians bears the theme of "unity in Christ." It is seen again and again: unity of the universe in Christ (1.20-23), unity of Jew and Gentile in one new Man, a holy temple (2.11-22), unity within the Church (4.1-6), unity of the various members in one Body (4.7-16), unity of Christ and His Church as wife and Body (5.23-33). Even the large number of words with sun-prefixes (meaning: with, together with) is evidence of Paul's stress on unity in the epistle.

It is no accident then that Paul announces in his prologue to the epistle (1.9-10) the purpose of Christ: "to unite (anokephalaiosasthai; Aorist middle infinitive) all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth," RSV). Anakephalioō is from ana (again). and kephalioō (to sum up). "What is meant by the designation of Christ as kephalē [a closely related word] led the author of Ephesians to choose this relatively infrequent but rich and varied term which agrees so well with his intention."61 The head is seen as the source and uniting factor of all things. Paul probably intended some such understanding as is given by the Jerusalem Bible: "that he would bring everything under Christ, as head...."

First, in Ephesians 1.22-23 (cf. Colossians 2.10 where a similar idea prevails) Christ is said to be the head over all things (i.e.,

"rule, authority, power, and dominion," RSV, verse 21) for the Church which is His Body. The headship over various echelons or ayes of beings having authority in the spirit-world suggests one who acts with authority over others -- i.e., rules.62 His rule is characterized by subjugation and triumph over them (1.22a; Colossians 2.15). This rule of the Head over the powers of the universe is for the benefit of63 the Church, His Body -- perhaps part of Christ's role as Savior and Protector to the Body (cf. 5.23). We see a distinction here between Christ's Headship over the universe and over the Church. Though Christ is Head over the universe, it is never seen to be his Body; it is subjugated and ruled, not wooed and won. However, the Church is carefully distinguished as Christ's Body; the Church is wooed to voluntary submission. and served by the Head.64

Another use of kephalē is seen in Colossians 1.18 where Christ is "the Head of the Body, the Church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent." The context relates this to Christ's superiority over both the cosmic spiritual powers and the Church. His priority in time over created beings is stressed ("first-born of all creation," 1.15; "before all things," 1.17). Similarly His priority in time before His Church is also emphasized ("he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead," 1:18). He is not only before the creation but He is its Creator (1.16a), its purpose for existence (1.16c), and its present Sustainer (sunistēmi, "continue, endure, exist," 1.17). Christ is Head so that He might be pre-eminent (1.18b, proteuō, "be first (in rank), have first place").65 The idea of source is strongly suggested as the meaning of "head" in this passage.

Ephesians 4.1.5-16 is parallel with Colossians 2.19, and seems to be based on some kind of physiological function of the Head uniting and causing; bodily growth in the Body. The imagery here is strange to us, and seemingly, to the ancient world as well: the Head is the source of sustenance or supply to the parts of the Body. 66 The Head is also the source of unity for the Body, 67 Moreover, the Head is the source of growth for the Body (Ephesians 4.15; Colossians 2.19; cf. Ephesians 2.21).

We have seen a number of related concepts which appear to be expressed in kephalē in Ephesians and Colossians. These are summarized in Figure 2. The idea of origin seems to be the primary and unifying meaning of "head" in these passages.68

Fig. 2. The Inter-Relationships of Kephale Concepts in Eph and Col.
Fig. 2. The Inter-Relationships of Kephale Concepts in Ephesians and Colossians. Larger Image

Christ is prior in time (Colossians 1.5,17,18)69 and it follows that He is first-in-rank, pre-eminent (Colossians 1.18), and then ruler, particularly over the cosmic powers (Ephesians 1.20-22; Colossians 1.10), Closely related to "origin" is the idea of "Creator, source" (Colossians 1.16). From the Head as Creator derives His role as Sustainer (Ephesians 4..16; Colossians 1.17; 2.19) and thus source of growth (Ephesians 4-15-16; Colossians 2.19). Several of these concepts go to make up the Head as unifier (Ephesians 1.10; 4.16; Colossians 2.19). Because He is the Source, the Creator, He takes responsibility for reconciling a rebellious creation to Himself. As Source of growth He causes the Church to grow up into His image, into maturity, into perfection. Because He is ruler He forces the rebellious universal powers to submit to His authority. There may be a hint of the idea here of Representative who sums up all in Himself (Ephesians 1.10), but this is not developed.

All of these aspects of Headship are found in Christ. But that does not mean that the husband is head of his wife in all these ways. He is not Christ to his wife, The aspects of headship which belong to the husband must be determined by a study of Christ's example to the husband in Ephesians 5.21-33.

6. Implications of Ephesians 5.21-33 for the Marriage Relationship

The key verse for understanding Paul's exposition of Christian marriage in Ephesians 5.21-33 is verse 23: "The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body." It is in the concept of "head" which Paul develops in Ephesians and Colossians (see sec. 5 above) which illuminates the husband-wife relationship in our passage. Certainly man is not head of his wife in every sense in which Christ is Head of His Church, and we err if we try to arbitrarily force this upon the husband. Instead we will determine what ways Christ is seen as head in this passage, and then try to translate this to the human husband-wife relationship.

A. Head as First-in-Rank

We read, "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands" (5:22-24), As we have determined above, the particular flavor of hupotassomai is to voluntarily accede to the "sub-ordinate position in an ordered relationship. We have also observed that Paul's use of kephalē includes the concept of "First-in-Rank" with regard to Christ and the Church. (Colossians 1.18). it is likely that it is this idea of "head" which is present in these verses. Nowhere iii our passage is the idea of "head" as "ruler" predominant. We noticed that the idea of obedience is not foreign to hupotassomai, but is not its particular flavor.

The reason why the husband is first-in-rank is not immediately clear from the passage.. Christ is presented as first-in-rank to the Church both because lie is first-in-time (Colossians 1.18) and because He is the Creator of the Church, His Body, through His act of self-giving love (Colossians 1.19-20). Elsewhere the man's creation before the woman is given as a reason for his priority (1 Cor 11:1,3, 8; 1 Timothy 2.13), but none of that is seen in this passage. Here Christ's self-giving love is in the fore. The question may be raised. Is the husband the head of his wife if he does not give himself for her as did Christ for the Church? Certainly he would not then be head in any full sense as we shall see below, But the wives are exhorted to respect (5.33), not despise, their husbands, in spite of their human imperfections.

In what is the wife to "sub-ordinate" herself to her husband? Vs. 24 extends this submission to all aspects of the relationship. However, it is clear that any submission that would violate the wife's conscience could not be part of her service to Christ (cf. "as to the Lord," verse 22), and is no part of her obligation.

But this passage is not intended to be a model for couples where Christ's love is not flowing, (cf. 1 Peter 3.1-6, for a model for Christian wives with non-Christian husbands). If the wife is to submit to her husband as the Church submits to Christ (verse 24), it must be in a context of faith and trust in the husband, which he can inspire only by a self-giving seeking of her own best interests. If husbands desire trusting submission, they must love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for it.

B. Head as Sustainer

Because the husband is head, his wife is to "sub-ordinate" herself to him., and this is where many husbands stop reading. But because the husband is the head of his wife, he also has deep responsibilities under Christ -- he is to be head as sustainer, source of growth, and source of unity to his wife. In a number of places in Ephesians and Colossians, Christ as Head is seen as the source of sustenance. He provides bands to bring sustenance to His Body (4.16; cf. Colossians 2.19) and in Him all things which he has created "hold together." perhaps the way in which He "fills" His Body (1.23) He also provides His gifts and presence which sustain and nourish it. Similarly, the husband as head is to nourish and cherish his wife as his own- body (5.29). This doubtless has reference to the physical necessities of life, food, clothing, etc.70 But it probably extends to-physical protection as well. Though the husband is clearly not the Savior of his wife in the same way that Christ is Savior of the Church (verse 23), yet this aspect of Christ's Headship is clearly intended to influence the husband's view of his own headship as protector, physical savior of his wife. Moreover, the husband's role as sustainer probably extends into the psychological realm as well. His love and cherishing, his self-giving, time-giving presence and encouragement are necessary to his wife's psychological wellbeing and sustenance.

C. Head as Source of Growth

The role of head as sustainer is very closely related to head as source of growth. In two similar images of the head and body, Christ as head is seen as the One who "makes bodily growth" (Ephesians 4.15-16) and the One "from whom the whole body ... grows with a growth that is from God" (Colossians 2.19). Christ's example in our passage is one who gives up Himself to redeem the Church, set her apart, cleanse her, and finally present her to Himself in glory, in perfection, even her garments perfectly white and perfectly pressed (5.25-27). We as parts of Christ's Body did not begin perfect, but because of His constant, patient love, guidance, and grace, we are becoming mature in Him (4.13),

we are "growing up into him who is the head" (4.15), we are becoming all we are able to be because in Him, because of His grace to us.

Because Paul uses "head" as source of growth elsewhere, because of Christ's example in this passage, and because of the exhortation to husbands to nourish and cherish their wives (verse 29), it is likely that the husband as head is to be a source of growth to his wife. In this unique, loving relationship of one flesh, the husband is to endeavor to help his wife to become all she can be. He is to seek to help her develop all the potential, all the gifts, all the capacities with which she has been endowed by her Creator. He is to nurture her emotional, mental, and spiritual growth.

And there is a sense in which the husband, unlike Christ, does not become all he is made to be without his self-giving nurture of his wife, For his personality, his life, his future, is bound up in hers. Truly, "He who loves his wife loves himself" (verse 28b); a mature recognition of this unity brings the husband to the realization that only as she is fulfilled as a person can he be fulfilled. His well-being and hers are so inextricably bound up in Christ that her growth is his. As Paul says elsewhere about the unity of the body, "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored., all rejoice together" (1 Cor 12.26). It is obvious that head as source of growth merges into head as source of unity.

D. Head as Source of Unity

Finally, we see the husband as head as the source of unity between himself and his wife. This theme of Ephesians is delineated in Ephesians 1.10 where "all things are to be comprehended under one head (anakephalaiomai), the Messiah."71 He as Head is the great Reconciler of all things (Colossians 1.20,22; Ephesians 2.16). He as Head -- He made us alive, even though we dead in trespasses and. sins, at enmity with Him (Ephesians 1.2.2 - 2.7). His love is one of grace offered to a rebellious people. We read between the lines in our passage and see hints of Yahweh's gracious redemption and cleansing of His bride Israel (of. Ezekiel 16; Hosea; etc.).

Here the husband's love of his wife is to be unconditional. It is his responsibility to initiate communication, reconciliation -- it is not a role he can pass off on his wife -- it is his as head, Again, his love is to be free, self-giving, allowing her to respond freely. Nowhere does Paul exhort the husbands to exercise their headship in subjugation of their unsubmissive wives, grinding her personality under him, Rather he calls upon them, as it were, to woo and win their wives' trust as Christ did the Church's. Though Christ was Head of all creation He did not come to earth demanding obedience, but He won it by His humble, self-sacrificing love. His is not a domineering posture toward His Church; indeed, He forbade such a leadership role to His followers (Mark 10.42-4.5; cf. 1 Peter 5.3).

Disciple Lessons from Ephesians, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
All the lessons are now available as an e-book or printed book for your convenience.

It is by Christ-like agapē love that the husband is to draw the wife to him to be one with him, as Christ drew the Church to Himself by His acts of love. The initiative for unity is with the husband. The way of bringing unity is Christ's way, by love, not roan's way, by force.

To be head as Christ is Head is a high calling. It is to this calling God has called husbands. Let those who shun this high calling not marry. But to those who do, under Christ, take on this calling, the rewards are great: for love begets love, nurture begets trust, growth begets fulfillment, and unity begets life itself.


  • Abbott, T.K., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians (ICC; Edinburgh: T&.T. Clark, 1897)
  • Abbott-Smith, G., A Manual Greek Lexicon of the NT (Edinburgh: T&T. Clark, 1937)
  • Alford, Henry, The Greek Testament (E.F. Harrison (rev.); Chicago: Moody Press, 1958; based on 7th ed., 1852)
  • Allan, John A., The Epistle to the Ephesians (Torch BC; London; SCM Press, 1959)
  • Arndt, N.F. and F.W. Gingrich, A Greek--English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957)
  • Balz, Horst, and Günther Wanke, phobeo, TDNT 9:189-219.
  • Barrett, C.K., The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Harper NTC: New York; Harper and Row, 1968)
  • Bath, Marcus, Ephesians (Anchor Bible; Garden City: Doubleday and Co., 1974) 2 volumes.
  • Bedale Stephen, "The Meaning of kephalē in the Pauline Epistles," JTSt 5 (1954) 211-215.
  • Blass, F. A. Debrunner, and Robert W. Funk (tr. and ed.), A Greek Grammar of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961)
  • Bruce, F.F., 1 and 2 Corinthians (New Century Bible; London: Oliphants, 1971)
  • _______, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (Tyndale NTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963)
  • _______, The Epistle to the Ephesians (London: Pickering and Inglis, 1961)
  • Crabb, R. Weldon, The Kephalē Concept in the Pauline Tradition with Special Emphasis on Colossians (Th.D. thesis, San Francisco Theological Seminary, 1966; abstract in Dissertation Abstracts 29A (1968) 1280a - 1281a)
  • Cranfield, C.E.B. , "Some Observations on Romans 13.1-7,'' NTSt 6 (1959--60) 241-249
  • Delling, Gerhard, hupotassō, TDNT 8:39-44
  • _______, sumbibazō, TDNT 7:763-766
  • Eadie, John, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians (W. Yound (ed.); Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, third ed., 1883; same as 2nd ed 1861)
  • Ellicott, Charles J., A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on St Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians (Andover: Warren F. Draper, reprint 1880, 2nd ed. 1859)
  • Fennema, David, "Unity in Marriage: Ephesians 5.21-33," Reformed Review 25 (Autumn, 1971) 62-71
  • Foulkes, Francis, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians (Tyndale NTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963)
  • Fraser, David and Elouise, A Biblical View of Women (unpublished seminar lectures, 1974)
  • _______, "A Biblical View of Women: Demythologizing Sexegesis," Theology; News and Notes (Fuller Theological Seminary) 21 (June, 1975) 14-18
  • Harpur, George E., "The Letter to the Ephesians," in A New Commentary (G.C.D. Howley (ed.); Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969)
  • Hendriksen, William, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967)
  • Hodge, Charles, An Exposition of Ephesians (Wilmington: Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., reprint 1972, 1856 edition)
  • Horst, J., melos, TDNT 4:555-568
  • Howard, George, "The Head/Body Metaphors of Ephesians, NTSt 20 (1974) 350-356
  • Kelly, J.N.D., A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and Jude (Harper NTC;- New York: Harper and Row, 1969)
  • Kittel, G. and G. Friedrich (eds.), Theological Dictionary of the NT (G.M. Bromiley (tr. and ed.); Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, ET 1963-1974, 1933-1973). Abbreviation: TDNT.
  • Koehler, Ludwig and Walter Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testaments Libros (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1958)
  • Liddell, H.G. and R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon (9th ed., H. Stuart Jones and H. McKenzie (eds.);Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940)
  • Jewett, Paul K., Man as Male and Female. (Grand :Rapids Eerdmans, 1975)
  • Martin, Ralph P., Colossians: The Church's Lord and the Christian's Liberty (Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1972)
  • _______, "Ephesians", in New Bible Commentary: Revised (third ed.; D. Guthrie and J.A. Motyer (eds.); Grand Rapids. Eerdmans, 1970), pp. 1105-1124
  • Martin, W.G.M., "Ephesians," in The New Bible Commentary (2nd ed.; Davidson, A.M. Stibbs, and E.F. Kevan (eds.); Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954)
  • Maurer, Christian, sunarrnologē, TDNT 7:855-856
  • Oepke, Albrecht, anēr, TDNT 1:360-363
  • _______, gunē, TDNT 1;776-789
  • Palmer, F.H., "Head," in New Bible Dictionary (J.D. Douglas (ed.) ; Grand Rapids : Eerdmans, 1962)
  • Rengstorf, Karl, doulos, TNT 2:261-280
  • Ridderbos, Herman, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (J.R. DeWitt (tr.); Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, ET 1975, 1966)
  • Sampley, J. Paul, "And the Two Shall Become One Flesh": A Study of Traditions in Ephesians 5.21-33 (Society for NT Studies Monograph Series, Vol. 16; Cambridge: University Press, 1971)
  • Schlier, Heinrich, anakephalaioomai, TDNT 3:681-682
  • _______, kephalē, TDNT 3:673-681 ;
  • Schneider, J., timē, timaō , TDNT 8:169-180
  • _______, meros, TDNT 4:594-598
  • Schweizer, Eduard, sōma, TDNT 7:1024-1094
  • Selwyn, Edward Gordon, The First Epistle of St. Peter (London: Macmillan, 1947)
  • Simpson, E.K. and F.F. Bruce, Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians (NlC; Grand Rapids Eerdmans, 1957)
  • Thayer, Joseph Henry, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1889, reprint 1962)
  • Ephesians
  • Vincent, M.R. Word Studies in the New Testament (Wilmington: Associated Publishers and Authors, reprint 1972)
  • Westcott, B.F., Saint Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians (J.N. Schulhof (ed.) ; London: Macmillan, 1906)
  • Whiteley, D.E.H., The Theology of St. Paul (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1964)


This is a paper submitted toDr. Norman Wakefield, Fuller Theological Seminary, December 4, 1975.

  1. Cf. Bill Gothard, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, Syllabus, "Chain-of-Command," p.3 (1968 edition).
  2. If not the explicit statement, then the clear implication of Ray Mossholdor, "Marriage and Ministry in the Home Seminar," Temple City, CA, October 26, 1975.
  3. Cf. Jewett, Man as Male and Female (1975), p. 11.2.
  4. Paul King Jewett, The Doctrine of (an: The Divine Image-- Man as Male and Female (Bulletin: Systematic Theology, T21, Fuller Theological Seminary, 1973), p. 123, fn. 1. This footnote, defining the doctrine and use of the analogy of faith, has been altered in the Eerdman's publication of the work (1975) to read "a disparity or incongruity within scripture itself" (p. 176).
  5. F.F. Bruce, Romans, p. 10.
  6. David Fennema, "Unity in Marriage: Ephesians 5.21-33, Reformed Review 25(Autumn 1971) p. 63. So Marcus Barth, Ephesians, pp. 608-609; Hodge, Ephesians p. 108; Bruce, Eph., p. 113; Abbott, Ephesians and Col, p. 164; David and Elouise Fraser, A Biblical View of Women (1974), pp. 46 ff.; Harpur, in NTC, p. 467.
  7. Hodge, p. 108.
  8. See below. Particularly, R.P. Martin, in NBCR, p. 1121.
  9. Probably dependent upon the finite verbs methuskesthe (be drunk) and plērousthe (be filled) in verse 18.
  10. Barth, p. 608.
  11. It is clear that participles can be taken as imperatival as is done in verses 19-21. in the NIV. Cf. Simpson and. Bruce, Ephesians and Colossians (p. 126, n. 28); Barth (p. 372, n. 23); Sampley, One Flesh (p. 114, n. 1); Blass-Debrunner and Funk, Grammar (sec. 468(2)) notes on this passage: "Hupotassomenoi ... is greatly detached from the finite verb and already approaching the imperatival usage." Abbott (p. 164) notes "a series of precepts expressed in imperatives and participles," but a careful look at them shows no precedent in Ephesians for imperatival in distinction from the previous context.
  12. Abbott (p. 164). So Hodge (p. 108).
  13. Including Abbott and Barth.
  14. Barth (pp. 609f); Cf. Sampley (p. 116). Hodge (p. 108) passes over this problem without blinking an eye: "From the general obligation to obedience follows the special obligation of wives, children, and servants...."
  15. Barth (p. 610).
  16. Ibid.
  17. So e.g. Barth (p. 580ff). The RSV "addressing one another" is preferable to the KJV "speaking to yourselves", for the reflexive pronoun heantois here can be used for the reciprocal pronoun allēlōn (cf. verse 21). So Arndt and Gingrich, Lexicon (p. 211), meaning 3. Cf. Simpson and Bruce (p. 283, fn. 113). This sense is required by comparison with a parallel passage in Colossians 3.16-17: nouthetountes heautous, "admonishing one another."
  18. See Simpson and Bruce (p. 281) for how teaching by song took place, quoting Tertullian, Apology. 39.
  19. This general line of interpretation, with variations, is followed by a number off commentators including: W.G.N. Martin (in NBC, p. 1027); Hendriksen (Eph., p. 243f) ; Foulkes (Eph., p. 153f); Alford (Gk Test., 3:135); Ellicott (Eph, p. l30) ; Eadie (Eph., p. 406) ; Westcott (Eph., p. 82). Especially see Sampley (p. 114ff) and R.P. Martin (in NBCR, p. 1121). Barth (p. 608) does not give reasons for contesting; this interpretation, he just offers an alternative. Abbott (p. 164) considers the interpretations of Ellicott, Alford, and Finley, but discounts the reference to the order needed in the worship context at Corinth: "This supplies too much, and besides, hupotassomenoi would be an unsuitable word to express such readiness to give way in the matter of prophesying as St. Paul directs in 1 Corinthians." However, Delling, at least (hupotassō, TDNT 8:45), sees 1 Corinthians 14.32 in this light: "Mutual submission distinguishes the conduct of the pneumatics toward one another in divine worship."
  20. Discussed in Sampley (p. 115).
  21. James M. Robinson, "Die Hodajot-Formel in Gebet and Hymnus des Früchristentums," Apophoreta: Festshrift für Ernst Haenchen (Walther Eltester (ed.); Berlin: Alfred Töpelman, 1960 , p. 224. Quoted in German in Sampley (p. 115). My translation.
  22. This has also been observed by R.P. Martin, p. 1121.
  23. Even though Barth (p. 610) sees this as an error fatally blinding one to "the unique message of Ephesians."
  24. Sampley (p. 122). He does see a reference to Christ as the kurios here on a secondary level.
  25. So Abbott (p. 165); Barth (p. 612).
  26. Arndt and Gingrich, p. 906, mng. III.b.
  27. Alford 3:136; Ellicott, p. 131.
  28. So Hodge (p. 109); W.G.M. Martin (p. 1028); Bruce (Eph., p. 114); Westcott (p. 83); Abbott (p. 165); Cf. Arndt and Gingrich, p. 906, mng. III.a.
  29. David Fennema, Reformed Rev 25(1971) 62-71. He prefers to substitute the word "devotion" for subjection" (p. 65).
  30. Delling, TDNT 8:39-40; Liddell and Scott, Lexicon, p. 1897; Abbott-Smith, Lexicon, p. 463; Arndt and Gingrich, p. 855; Thayer, Lexicon, p, 645.
  31. So Liddell and Scott, Arndt and Gingrich.
  32. Thayer, Abbott-Smith, Delling; cf. Arndt and Gingrich, 1bβ.
  33. So Abbott-Smith and Thayer.
  34. Delling, p. 40. Cf. Arndt and Gingrich, 1bβ, "of submission in the sense of voluntarily yielding in love (1 Corinthians 16.16; Ephesians 5.21; 1 Peter 5.5 (Textus Receptus); 1 Clement 38.1)."
  35. Romans 8.20a; 1 Corinthians 15.28a; 1 Peter 3.22.
  36. Romans 10.3; James 4.7; 1 Peter 2.13; 5.5.
  37. 1 Corinthians 14.34; 15.28b; 16.16; Hebrews 2.8c; 12.9.
  38. Submission to husbands is probably the reference here, cf. verse 35; Cf. hupotagē in 1 Tim 2.11. Here the reference is also probably the husband (andros, verse 12, though it is anarthrous).
  39. See Sec. 2 above.
  40. See Delling, TDNT 8:45. However, the meaning may be that the "spirits by which the prophets speak are under the control of the prophets." So C.K. Barrett, 1 Corinthians, p. 329.
  41. This is the particular force of peitharcheō, from peithō (obey) and archē (ruler).
  42. So C.E.B. Cranfield, NTSt 6 (1959-60), pp. 241-249.
  43. Entrepō, with the middle sense, "turn [oneself] towards something or someone, have regard for, respect" (Arndt and Gingrich, p. 269, 2b). It is used with phobeō in Luke 18.2, 4: "neither feared God nor regarded man." It is used of respect for superiors or men of power in the NT (Matthew 21.31 = Mark 12.6 = Luke 20.13; Luke 18.2,4; Hebrews 12.9). But its usage in the Apostolic Fathers shows that it can extend to respect for equals as well: Hermas Vision 1, 1 ,7 respect as for a sister; Ignatius, Ep to Mag 6, 2, "pay reverence to one another."
  44. "To value, respect show honor" to a person, both to superiors, such as parents (Ephesians 6.2; cf. Ex 20.12 LXX) and God (Jn 5.23), and to equals, such as widows (1 Tim 5.3) and all men (1 Pet 2,17). Cf. J. Schneider, TDNT 8:169-180.
  45. M. Barth (p. 662) claims that "the substitution of words softer than 'fear', e.g. 'awe', 'reverence', or 'respect', contradicts philological evidence and must be rejected in favor of the literal translation." He thus interprets Ephesians 5.33: "Just as a political revolutionary must 'fear' the 'wrath' of the authorities, wives appear to be enjoined to live in 'fear' of (the wrath of) their husbands" (p. 649). Then he proceeds with double-talk to show how this is not degrading to the wife and is her response to love. Hog-wash.
  46. In fact, the philological evidence is certainly forthcoming to show a meaning of "respect, reverence" well removed from fear of wrath. Wanke, phobeō., TDNT 9:199) notes several LXX references with this weaker sense: e.g., Leviticus 19.3 (rather than timaō, Ex 20.12); 4 Kings 17.7; Jeremiah 5.24; Malachi 2.5.
  47. This is a verbal reference to Proverbs 3.25 (LXX). The sense here is probably to exhort Christian wives not to be afraid of rough treatment from their pagan husbands, but "to stand up to such frightening conditions calmly and courageously." Kelly, Eps. of Peter and Jude, p. 131-132.
  48. Occasionally we see men of authority fearing the reaction of the people (e.g. Matthew 14.5; 21.46), but the reason for fear here is the mob-power of riot they possess.
  49. Herod feared John the Baptist, a man of God (Mark 6.20). If we took hōs tō kuriō as comparative (see sec 3 above), Ephesians 5.33 would clearly belong here.
  50. Balz, phobeō, TDNT 9:217.
  51. Probably "subordinate" is the best English word to express the middle of hupotassomai. I am hyphenating it to stress the literal. meaning sub (under) + ordinare (to arrange).
  52. Cranfield, NTSt 6 (1959-60) 243: "In the NT hupotassthai tini can denote the recognition that one is placed below the other person by God and that the other person is superior (huperexōn) to oneself...."
  53. Cf. Eadie (p. 410), "Authority and government are lodged in him." Hendriksen (p. 248) sees this as head of the home, and includes ideas of rulership, but also, "he is her head as being vitally interested in her welfare" as protector. Sampley (p. 123) sees kephalē as indicating authority.
  54. Rōsh often means head or chief of a tribe. Koehler and Baumgartner, Lexicon, p. 865, mng. 6.
  55. Schlier, kephalē, TDNT 3:674.
  56. Judges 11.11; 2 Samuel 22.44; Isaiah 7.8-9; and Isaiah 9.14-15. Archē (beginning > ruler, authority) translates rōsh in this sense only rarely (e.g. Ex 6.25; Micah 3.1) Cf. Bedale, "The Meaning of Kephalē in the Pauline Epistles," JTSt 5 (1954) 211-215.
  57. So Ridderbos (Paul, pp. 383-384) and Barth (pp. 185ff). The Redeemer-Myth is postulated by Schlier (TDNT 3:676-68 ).
  58. Barth, pp. 186-192.
  59. Ridderbos, pp. 381, 383.
  60. David and Elouise Fraser (Theology News and Notes 21 (Fuller Seminar Alumni publication, June 1975), p. 18) insist that the meaning of head "must be found within Ephesians 5 itself, "probably because the 'directing functions' of Christ's headship which they see elsewhere do not fit their view of what head should mean. See their interpretation of Ephesians 1.9-2 in A Biblical View of Women (1974), p. 50.
  61. Schlier, TDNT 3.681-682. So Hendriksen (p. 86, n. 28); Barth (p. 89); Simpson and Bruce (p. 33, n. 20).
  62. So R. P. Martin, Colossians (p. 47); Barth (pp. 156f); al. See note 60 above.
  63. I take this as dative of advantage (cf. Blass, Debrunner and Funk, 188). So Schweizer, sōma, TDNT 7:1079; Hendriksen, p. 103.
  64. Hendriksen (p. 103) makes an interesting distinction between Christ as Ruling Head over everything and Organic Head over the Church. Notice, however, a Rabbinical reference to the head directing the body in Horst, melos, TDNT 4:559 (cf. note 33).
  65. Michaelis, proteuō, TDNT 6:881-882; Arndt and Gingrich, p. 732.
  66. The verb epichorēgeō is found in secular papyri as a technical term describing the provision of food, clothing, etc. which a husband is obliged (by marriage contract) to make for his wife (Barth., p. 448). A similar idea, but a non-technical term is found in Ephesians 5.29.
  67. Sunarmologeō, "fit or join together"(Arndt and Gingrich, p. 792) is also used in the building analogy of unity in 2.21. There Christ is the chief corner-stone (or keystone?; cf. Barth pp. 317-319) who provides unity and growth to the structure. Sumbibazō means "to hold or bring together, to unite." Arndt and Gingrich, p. 785; Delling, TDNT 7:764.
  68. This is what Bedale concludes (JTSt 5 (1954) 211-215): "It seems a fair inference that St. Paul, when using kephalē in any but its literal sense, would have in mind the enlarged and metaphorical uses of the term 'head' familiar to him from the OT; and these ... include the meaning of the 'beginning' of something. Consequently, in St. Paul's usage, kephalē may approximate in meaning to archē [beginning]." Cf. Ridderbos, p. 382.
  69. This is probably the place for Corinthians 11.3. F.F. Bruce on this passage suggests the meaning as "source" or "origin'' (in 1 and 2 Corinthians, p. 103).
  70. See note 66 above.
  71. Barth's translation (pp. 89-91).

Copyright © 1985-2014, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

Sign up now!To be notified about future articles, stories, and Bible studies,why don't you subscribe to our free newsletter,The Joyful Heart, by placing your e-mail address in the box below. We respect your privacy and never sell, rent, or loan our lists. Please don't subscribe your friends; let them decide for themselves.
Country(2-letter abbreviation, such as US)
Preferred FormatHTML (recommended) Plain text