Monday, February 09, 2015

Wives, Submit!

HCSB Eph 5:18And ... be filled by the Spirit: ... 21 submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord....
In my environment, the typical take-away message from this passage is that women are to be submissive to men, or at least, wives to their husbands.

And indeed, that's what the black-and-white of the text says.

But I would like to perhaps add some coloring to this passage, which we don't often consider.

To whom was this passage written?

To the Ephesians.

And for what were the Ephesians known?
HCSB Act 19:35However, when the city clerk had calmed the crowd down, he said, "Men of Ephesus! What man is there who doesn't know that the city of the Ephesians is the temple guardian of the great Artemis, and of the image that fell from heaven?
So we have a city which is known for its adherence to the cult of the female goddess, Artemis. In this cult, women were the priests. Legend had it that the city was founded by the Amazons, and indeed, Amazon warrior women were a key component of the Artemis Temple. Artemis herself was regarded as the goddess of hunting, and as the "shooter of swift arrows", and as the "mistress of wild beasts".

Paul may have been referring allegorically to troubles with devotees of the Artemis cult when he writes elsewhere (1 Cor 15:32 NIV) that he had "fought wild beasts in Ephesus". (He uses this sort of beast-fighting-human imagery to describe run-ins with human opponents in 2 Tim 4:17, saying that he was "delivered from the lion's mouth".) Still elsewhere (1 Cor 16:9) Paul writes that in Ephesus "there are many who oppose" him.

Artemis was believed to be greater than her twin brother-god Apollo, as she had been born first.

In this city, women worshiped Artemis by wearing fancy clothing and fancy hair braids when they entered her temple. Artemis then endowed the women with sexual prowess to manipulate and dominate men, and she would save them during childbirth.

The men would worship by praying to her for victory in battle, as they held their hands, palms up, just above waist level.

Knowing these things, we can now see that when Paul writes to Timothy, whom he had left in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3), he intended to contrast Christian worship with that of Artemis, which had apparently been a source of opposition for him and for Christians in general, perhaps specifically the men:
HCSB 1 Tim 2:8Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument.9Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel,10but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God.11A woman should learn in silence with full submission.12I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent.13For Adam was created first, then Eve.14And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.15But she will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with good judgment.
( This phrase "have authority over a man" is unique in the Bible, and we must turn to extra-Biblical material to learn that it has reference to a power struggle.)

So Paul is writing to a city in which the women "wore the pants" to a large extent, manipulating and dominating their husbands. In verse 21 he instructs the Ephesians to "submit to one another", and in verse 22 he essentially adds, "This applies to you too, you women; stop dominating your husbands; be submissive!"

I don't believe Paul is telling women to be door-mats, allowing their men to walk all over them. I believe he's telling them that they need to learn submission, just as all Christians should be submissive, one to another.

(Thanks for the insights provided by the Istoria Ministries Blog -

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