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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Submitting a proper response

So, here is the conclusion to the submission vs obey discussion (thanks to Mum for help with this). If anyone has a counter-point to offer, please do and I will reconsider further! Also forgive me for my faltering use of the Greek. It's not my strong point. In fact, you could say, it's all Greek to me, but that would be ridiculously cheesy. Anyway, for now...

Ephesians 5:21 - 'Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ' (NIV)
This is referring to relationships between members of the church. The Greek word is Upotasso here, translated as submit.

Ephesians 5:22 - 'Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord' (NIV)
Here the word 'submit' is not actually used in the Greek - this verse refers back to verse 21, so it is referring the relationship between wife and husband to the relationship between church members. Now given we do not interpret the Scripture as meaning that we should obey each other as church members, rather submit, v22 seems to mean that wives should indeed submit and not 'obey'.

Ephesians 6:1 - 'Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right' (NIV)
This is not 'Upotasso', it is a different word which we interpret as obey. (I think it's 'pakou' but I could be wrong.)

1 Peter 3:1-6 - 'Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands... They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master' (NIV)
The same 'Upotasso' verb is used for the 'submissive' here but the 'obey' verb is used for the reference to Sarah.

However, a simple reading of the text (even without the Greek) tells us that wives are always commanded to submit, never to obey. The reference to obey is in regard to Sarah and Abraham. It does not say, 'obey like Sarah', it says 'be submissive, like Sarah, WHO obeyed...' Also, this references the Old Testament, which may use different vocabulary or can even be taken as a slightly different model for marriage. Is that heretical?!

What is clear is that wives are commanded to submit to their husbands as church members submit to each other. Unless we're going to start commanding church members to obey each other, I'm going to go with 'submit' and not 'obey'.

This doesn't really expose what we mean by the terms though. I think that obey has negative connotations and implies an authoritarian relationship such as child to parent. And given the words are different in the Greek, I think there is a reason for that.


  • Negative connotations? Only if you're a post-modern and any form of authority is negative!

    By Blogger Jon, at 5:22 pm  

  • On the contrary... if you're postmodern no word can have negative connotations because they all have the same 'value' (and the postmodernists would use words in order for us to understand that.........)

    Anyway, I think I said it 'implies an authoritation relationship such as child to parent'. And in the context of marriage, this is negative, as this is not the model that the Bible commends.

    There are no negative connotations of the word 'obey' in the child-parent relationship, obviously.

    But there is a reason why the Greek uses those particular words, and a reason why they have been translated into our language using those particular words.

    Hence if we don't follow their meanings in our lives, the consequences are negative.

    By Blogger Bec, at 10:24 am  

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