About Philip B. Payne Man and Woman, One in Christ Philip B. Payne, and the cover of his latest book, Man and Woman, One in Christ
June 21st
2018
written by phil

This is Phil’s chapter “What-about Headship? From Hierarchy to Equality” in Mutual by Design: A better Model for Christian Marriage (ed. Elizabeth Beyer; Minneapolis: CBE International, 2017).

It shows that Paul’s longest passage about marriage, 1 Corinthians 7, teaches the equal rights and responsibilities of husbands and wives regarding twelve different aspects of marriage. It argues that Ephesians 5 teaches mutual submission between husband and wife, not “headship” of the husband over the wife. It argues from their contexts that Paul’s references to Christ as “head” of the church and a husband as “head” of his wife almost certainly do not refer to leadership or authority. Hardly any dictionaries of native Greek up to Paul’s time include even one example of “head” meaning “leader” or “authority.” It shows that of 171 cases where “head” in the Hebrew Scriptures meant “leader” only one is clearly translated with “head” as a metaphor for “leader” in the LXX Greek translation used in churches. If “leader” had been understood by the LXX translators as a natural meaning of “head” in Greek, they would have translated most of them “head” (κεφαλή). This is evident in light of the tendency of the LXX to use the closest Greek equivalent and since the LXX almost always (in 226 of 239 instances) translates the same Hebrew word for “head” κεφαλή when it refers to a physical head, not “leader.” That there is only one clear case where LXX translators chose κεφαλή as a metaphor to translate the Hebrew word for “head” when it means “leader” is remarkable in light of the tendency in the LXX for Greek words to extend their meaning in un-Greek ways to match the equivalent Hebrew word’s meaning. This shows that most dictionaries of the Greek of that time are correct not to include “leader” as a meaning for “head.” Furthermore, Paul explains what he means by Christ being “head” of the church as “savior of the body” who loved the church and gave himself for the church. Paul explains what he means by Christ is “head” of the church is that Christ is the source of love and nourishment for the church, and that, likewise, husbands being “head” refers to their being a source of love and nourishment for their wives. This fits the established meaning “source” for “head” in Greek literature.

2 Comments

  1. Anca
    04/20/2019

    Hello Dr. Payne,
    I agree with you that “head” is defined as the savior of the body in Ephesians 5. All the verses to husbands speak of material care and provision for her just like a man would give to his own body. What I have come across this last year is a rejection by most people that “savior of the body” is a definer of what head of the wife means. They are saying that verse 24 starts with “alla” which is a strong adversative in Greek. So I am being told that “He savior of the body” is exclusive to Christ only and that the “Alla” in the next verse demands this reading. That husbands are being told they are head of the wife as Christ is head of the church in every way except being the savior of the body for the wife, that to provide for and preserve the body is exclusive to Christ. Do you have any insight on how to deal with the adversative “Alla” in 5:24? I have no one else to ask, even most of the egalatarians on FB reject the savior of the body part.

    Thank you!

  2. phil
    04/20/2019

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment.
    In order for the Greek to convey the idea that “he savior of the body” is exclusive to Christ only, “but” (alla) would have to precede “he savior of the body”: “but Christ is the Savior of the Body.” As BDAG 44 explains, alla begins a statement “introducing a difference with or contrast to what precedes.” Paul does not use alla to introduce the last clause of Eph 5:23, which could have contrasted husbands being like Christ as “head” but not like Christ as “savior.”
    One of the uses of alla is to “limit a preceding statement” (BDAG 45). If Paul intended alla here to convey a limitation, qualification, or any other contrast, then it highlights that the wife’s submission is not absolute. Wives are to submit to their husbands in everything “as the church submits to Christ.” Since Christ never asks the church to do anything he prohibits, this is a crucial qualifier that frees wives from submitting to any command from a husband to do anything Christ prohibits. It is clear, for example, from Acts 5:8-10 that Sapphira was dead wrong to agree with her husband Ananias to lie to the Holy Spirit. Paul qualifies the kind of submission he is commanding: “But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives to your husbands in everything.”
    BDAG 45 also lists two non-adversative uses of alla as possible meanings in Eph 4:24: rhetorically ascensive “yes indeed” and to strengthen a command “now, then.” Even if this is the case, the content of Eph 5:24 makes it clear that the submission “in everything” is specifically to submission “as the church submits to Christ.”
    If Paul had intended to give a complementarian message affirming husbands as having authority over their wives as Christ has authority over the church, but that only Christ is the Savior of the church, he would have to have written Eph 5:21-24 differently, such as:
    “21 … submitting one to another out of reverence for Christ.
    Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, 22 because a husband has authority over his wife, as also Christ has authority over the church, but he is the Savior of the body. As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
    Note that what Paul did write is different than the above statement in the following seven ways:
    1. Paul did not put v. 21 in a separate paragraph from v. 22. They are part of the same sentence, with the verb “submit” of v. 22 assumed from its earlier use in the sentence.
    2. Paul did not write “submit” in v. 22. It is not in any of the earliest manuscripts or earliest citations of this verse by church fathers. Verse 22 is not a complete sentence by itself because it originally had no primary verb. Instead, it is part of the sentence including v. 21. Paul grammatically links “wives to your own husbands” to “submitting to one another.” This makes mutual submission the explicit context of “wives [submit] to your own husbands.”
    3. Paul did not write, “a husband has authority over his wife” or even “the husband is the head of his wife” [with an article, “the”], but rather, “a husband is head of his wife.” As my chapter in the book explains, “head” in Greek at that time did not have as an established meaning “have authority over,” but it was used in many contexts to refer to something being the “source of” something else. As you note, in context here, Paul is talking about husbands being the source “of material care and provision” for her. None of the following statements about husbands are about a husband’s exercise of authority over his wife. All are about a husband being a source of love and nourishment for his wife.
    4. Paul did not write, “as also Christ has authority over the church,” but rather, “as also Christ is head of the church.” It makes perfect sense that Christ as “head” is the source of the church, just as v. 25 explains, “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her….” None of the following statements about Christ are about Christ’s exercise of authority over the church. All are about Christ being a source of love and nourishment for the church.
    5. Paul did not write, “but he is the Savior of the body.” There is no “but” here. Rather there is an exact duplication of the preceding grammatical expression, substituting “savior” for “head” since “head” is the metaphor that needs clarification to make its meaning clear. This is known as apposition. This is the grammatical structure used to explain what a word means, in this case, what “head” means. Christ is “head” of the church in the sense that he is “savior” of the church, the source of its life, love, and nourishment.
    6. Paul did not write, “the Savior.” There is no article here, nor has Paul in any of his earlier letters used “the Savior” or “Savior” as a title for Christ. Paul writes “savior” to explain what Paul meant by “Christ is head of the church.” Christ is “head” of the church in the sense that he is “savior” of the body, the source of its life, love, and nourishment.
    7. Paul did not write v. 24, “As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Paul wrote, “But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives to their husbands in everything.” If “but” (alla) conveys contrast, like it normally does, then it limits the command for a wife to submit to how the church submits to Christ. Since the church in submitting to Christ never does anything contrary to Christ’s will, submission to act contrary to Christ will is not being commanded here. This, of course, also applies to the mutual submission Paul commands to all believers in v. 21. Mutual submission is the context within which Paul continues in v. 22 “wives to your own husbands.” Thus, v. 22’s command to wives to submit to their husbands as written implies that the wife’s submission to her husband is in the context of their mutual submission.

Leave a Reply