Get Your Head on Straight…er

Get Your Head on Straight

The following is a post by Bread for the Bride blog author, Cheryl McGrath.  Cheryl is a sensitive and thoughtful writer whose richness in the word of God is rare.  Cheryl disagreed with my recent post, “Get Your Head on Straight.”  (Please read my post before reading Cheryl’s). After discussing things, I asked her to write a guest post in which she gives her view on the topics I wrote about.  I’m not sure our views are that opposed to each other.  I welcome the chance to enlarge this conversation so please let me know what you think after reading both posts.


Firstly, I’d like to thank Teague McKamey for offering me the opportunity of writing a guest post for his blog, The Voice of One.  Teague recently posted some comments about male headship which, as a follower of his blog, I challenged.  After some discussion Teague has graciously (and bravely!) asked me to put forward my own views on this subject.  As a Christian blogger myself, I know it’s no light decision and a huge display of trust to open your blog site to someone else, especially one whose views differ somewhat from your own.  For that, though our views may continue to differ, Teague has both my sincere gratitude and respect.

What the Bible actually teaches about women’s role in the church and the home is a very wide –ranging subject and one that is often hotly contested.  I will not attempt here to cover the whole subject but try to focus my comments on the topics of male headship in marriage, submission of wives and traditional teachings about hierarchy in the home and church.  Further articles expressing my views on these and related subjects can be read here and here.

Let me start by saying I minister frequently to women whose Christian experience has been hugely impacted by the traditional teaching that God ordained that wives are to be submissive (obedient) to husbands, and/or that women need male ‘covering’ either through a father, husband or brother.  It is difficult to over-emphasize the damaging results of such teaching in the lives of individual Christian women and in the church in general.  Having said that, I wish to be very clear that this kind of teaching is not wrong because women are being damaged by it; rather women are being damaged because this teaching is wrong.

1.Male Headship in Marriage

The scriptures most often quoted to support the ‘wives must submit to husbands’ teaching are 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:22-24.  I will come back later to 1 Corinthians 11:3 later. For now let’s examine the Ephesians passage from the point of view of context and culture:  “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church;  and He is the Saviour of the Body, therefore just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (NKJV)

The culture in which we are reading these words differs greatly to the culture relevant to the Christians living in ancient Ephesus, to whom Paul wrote his letter.  In that cultural environment marriage was very often nothing more than a legal arrangement used by men as a means through which they could sire legitimate heirs devoid of any commitment to their wives.  It was common for men to have several mistresses and wives were kept simply for the purpose of childbearing and rearing.  Hence Paul’s further admonition in verses 25 to 33 that husbands should love their wives ‘as themselves’, a new and radical idea to the new converts he was addressing whose cultural history did not include a close relationship between spouses.

Returning to verses 22-24 there are several things to note.  Firstly, when we hear the words ‘submit’ and ‘subject’ in the English language, our minds immediately understand them as ‘obey’ and ‘obedience’.  The word Paul used, however, was ‘hupotasso’, which when used in the middle voice as it is here, we now know means “to give allegiance to or be supportive”.  There is no inherent idea of obedient submission or subordination in this word in the way that it has been traditionally interpreted and taught in the Christian church.  I will say more about the word ‘head’ later.

Furthermore, the original text of verse 22 actually states: “ wives to your own husbands as to the Lord.” That’s right, the word ‘submit’ is not there.  It was added by translators trying to fit the phrase to their own cultural understanding.  Please remember Paul did not write letters with chapters and verse numbers! The verse is actually joined to the previous verse 21, which in the original text ends with a comma, not a full stop or period.  The correct wording of verses 21 and 22, which is one undivided statement, is therefore:  “support one another out of respect for Christ, wives, your husbands as the Lord.”   We can get the gist of the kind of marriage Paul was promoting amongst the new Ephesian disciples when we remember Colossians 3:18 in which he wrote:  “Wives, (submit to) be supportive of your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”  

There is so much more than can be said about the interpretation of this crucial passage but let me just add this. Throughout his earthly ministry Christ continually affirmed the women he encountered, who otherwise existed in a society in which, from birth to death, they were regarded as the possessions of men.  His male disciples were amazed at his revolutionary attitude toward women (John 4:27).  Furthermore, all indications are that in the early church women were viewed on an equal spiritual footing with their husbands and male brethren.  For instance, if we take a close look at the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 we see that Sapphira was given opportunity to account for her actions separately and on equal terms to her husband.  There is no suggestion that as a wife she was expected to submit to her husband or that such an expectation may have been a mitigating circumstance, making her less responsible for their joint deceit.

The real tragedy is that such a large part of the Christian church, in its quest to justify a belief in the inherent right of males to lead in all structures of society, has taken what was written to Christians in a vastly different society, pulled it out of cultural context and made it a” law” affecting all Christian wives for all time. In the same letter Paul gives advice to slaves, (often translated bondservants), and masters (Eph. 6:5-9), yet most Christians would be hard pressed to find any relevant application for these instructions today.  The New Testament letters written by Paul, Peter and others are inspired writings addressing both practical and spiritual matters affecting the early church.  God intended us to interpret them through the eyes of the Spirit of grace and revelation, not turn them into the letter of the law with which to subjugate other believers.

2. Hierarchy within Marriage and the Godhead

Many Christians adhere to the traditional church teaching that there is a ‘chain of command’ in the Godhead, not realising this teaching has its roots in the fourth century heresy of Arianism which held that Christ is eternally subordinate to the Father.  This doctrine was officially rejected by the early church at the Council of Nicea in AD325.  (For an in depth, historical and scripturally based study of this subject please see Kevin Giles article here.)

The main scriptures passages used to support this view are found in 1 Corinthians 11:3: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” , and Ephesians 5:23:  “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.”

The Greek word translated ‘head’ in both these verses is the controversial word ‘kephale’  In the English language the word ‘head’ can mean leader, someone in charge, or having authority over others, and this is how we tend to interpret what Paul was teaching.  However, none of these concepts are inherent in the word ‘kephale’, which simply meant ‘physical head’ or ‘source, origin”.  There is a Greek word meaning ‘ruler, leader or commander’ and it is ‘archon’, but Paul, a fluent Greek and Hebrew speaker, chose not to use that word.   To quote one scholar: “For Paul and his correspondents the use of the word kephale as a synonym for ruler or authority would have been as meaningless as attempting to do the same today with tete in French, or Kopf in German.”*

Paul was writing in a time when various pagan beliefs predominated across the Greek speaking world. One of these was that women were made of a different, more inferior substance than men.  Another was that Eve was a mother-goddess, superior to Adam, and that she created humanity.  Remember many of the Christians to whom Paul was writing had formerly held these beliefs.  I believe, as do many, that in using the word ‘kephale’, or ‘source’, Paul was speaking against these beliefs by teaching Adam was the physical source of  Eve, just as Christ is the spiritual source of the church. The woman and man are physically the same substance, she being “bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh” (Gen. 2:23), just as the church is the same spiritual substance as Christ, being “of His flesh and of His bones” (Eph. 5:30).

With a correct understanding of ‘kephale’ 1 Corinthians 11:3 also takes on quite a different meaning. “But I want you to know that the head (source) of every man is Christ, the head (source) of woman is man, and the head (source) of Christ is God.”  Paul is not in this verse describing a chain of command in the Godhead.  If he was it make no sense that he uses the order Christ-man-God rather than God-Christ-man. Christ, who is the source of all creation (Col. 1:16, 17), is the source of the male, the male is the physical source of the woman, and God is the source of Christ (in His incarnation only).

Scripture clearly teaches there is no submission, subordination, ranking, or chain of command within the Trinity.   We do not worship three gods rolled into one, we worship a God who is One and expresses His perfect Oneness through three Personalities equal in authority, power and will.  All three members were instrumental in creation and they are eternally One (Gen. 1:26, Deut. 6:4, Jn 10:30, Jn 17:22).  There is no need for any member of the divine Trinity we call Father, Son and Holy Spirit to submit or defer to another member, because they are One in will and intent (Is. 44:6).

During the time of His human incarnation Christ, who is God, submitted to and became willingly subordinate to the Father (Phl. 2:5-9).  He chose to humble Himself in order that humanity could be delivered from sin and death. However, in eternity Christ is equally God with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and He has risen as fully God and fully man (John 1:1-3, Col. 2:9, 1 John 5:20; Titus 2:13). He was equal God before His incarnation and remains equal God in His resurrected state. This has been a core tenet of orthodox Christianity since the Council of Nicea which decreed Christ to be “the Son of God, begotten of the Father (the only-begotten;  that is of the essence of the Father, God of God), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

It is not unusual for those who support a doctrine of God-ordained male headship in marriage to also promote a ‘chain of command’ doctrine concerning the Godhead.  One teaching tends to support the other. It is also not unusual that such teaching goes hand in hand with the belief that God originally created the man to lead and the woman to help and submit.  There is not space or time here to explore all the reasons why I believe the Genesis account does not support this belief, or why I believe the first woman was created equal to her husband in everything, including in authority.  That’s another subject for another time.

At the beginning of this article I stated: “This kind of teaching is not wrong because women are being damaged by it; rather women are being damaged because this teaching is wrong.”  There are many men, both leaders, husbands and fathers, who sincerely seek to ‘head’ their families wisely and lovingly. They are deeply disturbed and appalled by the fact that these verses are so often used to justify abuse against females.  However, dealing with an error by saying male authority is God ordained but is simply being misused due to the fall, no matter how sincere, does not do away with the error or justify its continuation.  It simply covers the mess and perpetuates the damage.

Voluntary submission of believers to one another is Biblical.  Christ led by example when He humbled Himself to take on the form of man, and taught it on several occasions.  I believe it is meant to be a ‘gift among equals’, given freely to each other within a safe and loving environment of true Christian community, whether that be within home life or church life.  It is not, however, something that can be permanently applied to one group of people on the grounds of gender, role or marital status.  Paul gave advice and instruction to the church, not commands, within the context and culture in which he was ministering.  I highly suspect he would be horrified to learn two thousand years later some sections of the church have turned portions of his epistles into Old Covenant type law that is to apply for all time to certain sections of the church.  That is not Biblical submission, that is subjugation.

*Gilbert Bilezikian, Beyond Sex Roles, pgs. 277-78

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Lerissa says:

    Brava! We humans constantly make the mistake of interpreting everything (not just scripture — everything) as if we had access to the whole story. We don’t. Ever. We’re all pretty much bozos on this bus, muddling along, taking our best guess and hoping that’s good enough. And then along comes someone like you, Ms. McGrath, who digs deep and provides a little context, and all those assumptions go out the window. Or at least, I hope they go out the window. Thank you. I hope everyone is reading you.

  2. Richard Barrett says:

    If I may —

    Coming from a very different context than either Teague or Ms. McGrath as I do, I offer a couple of things:

    Voluntary submission of believers to one another is Biblical. Christ led by example when He humbled Himself to take on the form of man, and taught it on several occasions. I believe it is meant to be a ‘gift among equals’, given freely to each other within a safe and loving environment of true Christian community, whether that be within home life or church life.

    Quite. One of the things I heard this morning during the priest’s homily was an episode from the life of St. Mary of Egypt ( ), where Zosimas, a monk, encounters St. Mary, who has been in desert by herself for many years. He perceives that she is a holy woman, she perceives that he is a holy man:

    Zosimas threw himself on the ground and asked for her blessing. She likewise bowed down before him. And thus they lay on the ground prostrate asking for each other’s blessing. And one word alone could be heard from both: “Bless me!”

    I must say, however, that while I appreciate Ms. McGrath’s contextualization of St. Paul’s discussion of marriage within the secular norms of first-century Asia Minor, I am a bit confused on the point her Greek verb parsing. While the grammatical middle voice is certainly often a point that requires some careful consideration when rendering things into English, I’m not quite sure how that is relevant here. ὑποτάσσω has no special middle voice meaning according to either the Liddell-Scott or BDAG lexica, and even if it did, there is the problem that passive and middle voices are identical in the present tense, which both ὑποτασσόμενοι nor ὑποτάσσεσθε are. If you’re committed to the middle voice parsing, then I suppose you could come up with some kind of reflexive meaning like “subordinate yourselves”, but that’s not really substantially different from “be subject”. We can argue about the nuance of meaning — Liddell-Scott suggests “post in the shelter of” as one possible meaning, which suggests more that there’s a protective responsibility the husband has rather a responsibility of obedience on the part of the wife, for example — but I’m not seeing how there’s anything useful to be gotten out of the middle voice argument. If you can clarify anything that might help me understand (and I certainly don’t claim to know everything or to know what little I do know perfectly), that would be most appreciated.

    Also, by saying the “original text” of Ephesians 5:22 doesn’t have the word ὑποτάσσεσθε, you’re eliding a number of issues. One, we don’t have the “original texts” of the New Testament; we have “critical texts” that present theoretical reconstructions of what some scholars propose the original texts may have been. You’re going with Nestle-Aland, it seems, which is certainly a common way to go, but one has to be clear about what one is working with there. Nestle-Aland prefers the so-called “Alexandrian” text type of the New Testament for a number of reasons I’m not sure I understand (I’m a historian, not a biblical textual scholar), although the printed editions of Nestle-Aland do list in the critical apparatus the manuscripts that have variants. Sure enough, while Nestle-Aland omits ὑποτάσσεσθε from Ephesians 5:22, it lists several manuscripts in the “family” the editors are looking at that do in fact contain ὑποτάσσεσθε. It’s possible that Nestle-Aland is absolutely right, of course, but to uncritically refer to it as the “original text” is, I think, a practice that might give rise to some confusion down the road.

    What troubles me a bit more is the description of Arianism as the view the Christ is “eternally subordinate to the Father”, and the subsequent description of God as the source of Christ “in His incarnation only”. Arianism was the view that Christ was a created being; divine, perhaps, but created. ἦν ποτε ὅτε οὐκ ἦν — “there was a time when He (the Son) was not”. Christ wasn’t eternal anything, subordinate or otherwise — that was the whole point of Arianism. I’m also not at all sure where you’re getting the “in His incarnation only” notion — the formulation of of the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople was that Christ is eternally begotten of the Father before all ages. Again, if you have any clarification to offer, it would be most welcome!

  3. Lerissa, Thankyou for your kind comments. Yes, we are all muddlers in life, and needing each other to help us muddle through. I like that.

    Richard, Thanks for your very detailed response to my post but I am not a Greek scholar and therefore will not enter into debates about the different nuances of words at the depth you are proposing. Research papers by very skilled scholars, books and other materials are all available on the internet and in good book stores and can be followed up through those means by anyone who needs to do so. I am more interested in presenting what I believe in a form that is understandable by the ordinary person in the street, like myself.

    Teague may have more to add by I will allow what I have written to stand as it is. Thanks.
    Cheryl McGrath

  4. Richard Barrett says:

    Ms. McGrath, thanks for your reply; it speaks for itself and requires no further comment from me, but I will say that I’m very interested to find a serious NT scholar who argues that ὑποτάσσεσθε is in the middle voice.

  5. Cathy Patton says:

    The Truth stands as my buckler & shield… Ephesians 22-24 (lexicon): “Wives subject yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord; because a husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is Head of the church, and He is savior of the body. But even as he church is subject to Christ, so also the wives to their own husbands in everything.” Bottom line, I’ve learned to humble myself & be subject to my husband = happily married! It’s a mistake to reason yourself out of clear scripture teaching. Perhaps The Lord knows that woman are weaker in the flesh. Spiritually, there is neither male or female, but all are one.

    1. mrteague says:

      Cathy, thanks for joining the conversation. For myself, I don’t think God made the husband head because women are inferior. In fact, I frequently wonder why I am head of my house because of all my shortcomings! LOL. But as Paul says, by the grace of God I am what I am. So it’s something I trust Him in 🙂 But I absolutely agree that there is no male or female in Christ, & the current arrangement has more to do with practical order than anything else. Cheryl, obviously will have a different take on all this. I don’t think she is just trying to reason her way around clear biblical teaching. Her perspective is a valid interpretation of scripture, & though my post on this subject came from a different perspective, I think Cher has a lot to offer in her understanding of God’s word. I am happy that you have submitted yourself to the Lord & that your marriage is good. Thank you for stopping by & hope to hear from you again!

  6. Hi Cathy,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I can’t say anything more on the verse you’ve quoted than is already clarified in my post. It’s your choice, and every one else’s to reject what I’ve said or look further into it for themselves. I’m glad you have a happy marriage. So do I. Sometimes I submit to my husband, sometimes he submits to me, whatever is appropriate for the moment. Last night he asked me what I wanted him to do concerning a chore I had asked him to do, and I directed him. On other occasions it may be the other way around. That’s mutual submission.

    If the pattern that you have found in your marriage works for you that’s fine. That doesn’t make it any more spiritual or scripturally accurate than another Christian’s marriage that is using a different method. Nor does it make you more humble.

    I’m not sure I understand your comment about reasoning yourself out of ‘clear scripture teaching’. My purpose in my post was to present clear scripture teaching, as was Teague’s. I think it is important that women and men are presented with both views, and I have attempted to present my understanding of the relevant passages with clarity.

    When you say ‘Perhaps the Lord knows that women are weaker in the flesh” do you mean the physical body, or the flesh nature? I think this needs clarification because Biblically they are not same. I would not disagree with you that in general women are weaker physically. However, if you are asserting women are weaker in nature and personality I would ask why then was it that women disciples stood at the Cross and did not desert Christ in His hours of suffering, and only one male disciple stood with them? I would also ask why Christ waited for and chose a woman to be the first human sent out with the message of His resurrection, rather than showing Himself to Peter and John who had already been to His empty tomb?

    So, like Teague, I would not agree that women are inferior in personality, character, spirituality, or any other sphere, though in general some may be physically weaker than some men due to the difference in male and female physical structure.

  7. Miklós says:

    Very interesting discussion. Implementing a concept in a society which does not support it can be very risky, and we might say damage is caused by the concept, because it is wrong, or we might say damage is caused by the society, because it is built wrong, and heading wrong. I think source and head are synonyms, but how headship is interpreted might be a question. Jesus is head, because He is the only way to the Farther, but Jesus called us to freedom and not into a chain of command relationship. Love is a relationship of mutual obedience. (Jn 15:7) Yet Jesus is the only way to the Father. In old societies, males (father or husband) were the only way to success and survival for women. It is not the case today. I think it might be a free choice for each couple, what kind of family model to choose, and bear the consequences of that decision. For a farmer, owning land and house, a supporting wife may be a viable approach. For a couple of two independent workers might be tricky, who is supporting whom and when and how…
    I am sure, headship was not interpreted as a chain of command in the old days either. David would have not married a rebellious woman, but he married Abigail, who supported her husband against his will to save him from David’s anger. It seems her act was not considered by David as something wrong. All smart leaders are looking for supporters like Abigail.
    Most of all our lives are hidden in Christ, we focus on Christ. In him there is no man and woman. Even if we are married we should live as if we were not. (Kind of take it easy approach 🙂 ) We have to be flexible (but not to evil), keeping in mind the main goal of getting saved and saving people, this world is not our home after all. One thing does not change for sure: God is head and source.

    1. mrteague says:

      Miklos, I always appreciate your perspective. This is not an easy issue, & you are right–most of all our lives are hidden in Christ, God is head & source. These things do not change 🙂

  8. For many years we practised the lordship husband and underling helper wife roles we were taught were “biblical.” Frankly it was based on fear of making a mistake in following the rules and like Cheryl said led to damaging results. Although my husband is a very good man, it caused the redundant one our marriage to deny God-given gifts and callings in the name of “submission.” Now when faced with acceptance of rules based on interpretations of isolated phrases in a foreign language and addressed to a church with a foreign culture that appear to conflict with new Testament practice, I look to Jesus and his relationships with women (after all is said and done, it’s all about Jesus Christ.) This poem came out of my observations.
    Mary II

    Without opening the door
    the curious host
    let the Teacher in.

    Beside him the once-dead man,
    having left his grave clothes on the stone,
    reclined to dine.

    Beside the filthy feet
    of hungry men
    the sister flitted
    with bowls of ripened fruit,
    slabs of risen bread,
    platters of spiced meat,
    pitchers of waiting wine.

    In the doorway
    the listening one,
    emptied of darkness,
    loosed her hair.

    With no authority,
    no covering,
    no office,
    no documents,
    no priestly garments,
    no holiness of her own,
    she opened his sweet-scented love,
    poured it on his feet,
    and anointed him

    (The story of this dinner party is told in John 12 and Mark 14)

    1. mrteague says:

      Charis (does that mean “gift” or “grace”? A common theme among commenters has been that authority & headship always means a slavish or legalistic arrangement. I certainly disagree with any such arrangement & am sorry that has been your experience. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1). Thank you for sharing that beautiful poem. I dabble in poetry myself & find it a great medium for sharing spiritual things. God bless, & hope to hear from you again!

    2. Hi Charis, Glad you could join us. My husband’s and my marriage experience started in a similar way, although it was actually me that was much more into the ‘submission’ verses than he ever was. After forty years of marriage we have now arrived at the same place as you. As much as I respect the writings of the apostle Paul, I think there has been an over emphasis on his teachings and not enough attention given to the way Jesus related to women.

      The poem is, as usual, sublime. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  9. Richard, if you are still following the conversation here: I don’t like to leave loose ends so did a bit of digging about hupotasso in the middle voice, as you said you are looking for scholars who discuss this. You may wish to take a look at Journey’s End, Removing “Biblical” Barriers Between Women and Their Destiny
    By Rev. Kathryn J. Riss, ThM

    Click to access Authority_Riss.pdf

    It may, at least, provide a starting point for you to pursue this aspect of your research.

    1. Richard Barrett says:

      Thanks for that; the relevant quote in that link is:

      To quote the Bauer, Arndt, Gingricht Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the middle or passive voices, which are always used in NT marriage contexts, mean a “voluntary yielding in love.” These grammatical voices are used to convey a reflexive sense; one
      submits oneself to another.

      Except I’m still confused, because the passive voice is not used reflexively (the middle voice can be, but is not necessarily), and the BDAG Lexicon, while it does say “voluntary yielding in love”, it does not list that as a “middle” definition, and the context in which it says that is a bit more complicated. Here’s the whole section of the lexical entry that contains that quote:

      β. subject oneself, be subjected or subordinated, obey abs. (Jos., Bell. 4, 175) Ro 13:5; 1 Cor 14:34 (cp. δουλεύετε ἀλλήλοις Gal 5:13); 1 Cl 2:1a; 57:2. Of submission involving recognition of an ordered structure, w. dat. of the entity to whom/which appropriate respect is shown (Palaeph. 38 p. 56, 15; 57, 2): toward a husband (s. Ps.-Callisth. 1, 22, 4 πρέπον ἐστὶ τὴν γυναῖκα τῷ ἀνδρὶ ὑποτάσσεσθαι, s. 1a above; cp. SEG 26, 1717, 26 [III/IV A.D.] in a love charm) Eph 5:22 v.l.; Col 3:18; Tit 2:5; 1 Pt 3:1 (on an alleged impv. sense s. Schwyzer II 407), 5; parents Lk 2:51; masters Tit 2:9; 1 Pt 2:18; B 19:7; D 4:11; secular authorities (1 Ch 29:24; Theoph. Ant. 1, 11 [p. 82, 14]) Ro 13:1 (CMorrison, The Powers That Be—Ro 13:1–13, diss. Basel ’56; EBarnikol, TU 77, ’61, 65–133 [non-Pauline]); Tit 3:1; 1 Pt 2:13; 1 Cl 61:1; church officials 1 Cl 1:3; 57:1; IEph 2:2; IMg 2; 13:2; ITr 2:1f; 13:2; IPol 6:1; Pol 5:3; νεώτεροι ὑποτάγητε πρεσβυτέροις 1 Pt 5:5. To God (Epict. 3, 24, 65 τ. θεῷ ὑποτεταγμένος; 4, 12, 11; Ps 61:2; 2 Macc 9:12) 1 Cor 15:28b; Hb 12:9; Js 4:7; 1 Cl 20:1; IEph 5:3; to Christ Eph 5:24. To the will of God, the law, etc. Ro 8:7; 10:3; 1 Cl 34:5; Hm 12, 5, 1; τῇ ἐπιθυμίᾳ τῇ ἀγαθῇ 12, 2, 5.—Of submission in the sense of voluntary yielding in love 1 Cor 16:16; Eph 5:21; 1 Pt 5:5b v.l.; 1 Cl 38:1.—The evil spirits must be subject to the disciples whom Jesus sends out Lk 10:17, 20. Likew. the prophetic spirits must be subject to the prophets in whom they dwell 1 Cor 14:32.—HMerklein, Studien zu Jesus und Paulus (WUNT 105) ’98, 405–37. (Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature,3rd ed., p.1042, emphasis mine. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.)

      Nothing in there about a middle, and “voluntary yielding in love” is still in the context of a definition of ὑποτάσσεσθε that says nothing about “giving allegiance to or to be supportive”. If it’s a middle, it would be a reflexive idea along the lines of “submit yourselves (voluntarily in love)”, which isn’t semantically different from “be subject (voluntarily in love)”.

      What is interesting, and perhaps might be a more productive direction, is that Lampe’s Patristic Greek Lexicon gives a whole host of patristic citations where ὑποτάσσω is used in the passive voice (not the middle) to describe the subjection of the Son to the Father in the Trinity. This strikes me as certainly being a “submission in the sense of voluntary yielding in love”, precisely because, as you say, there is no particular need for subjection in the Trinity.

      Thank you again for following up.


      1. mrteague says:


        Thank you for your contributions, especially citing the lexical entry so everyone can read it themselves 🙂


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