Why Did Paul Command Women To Submit To Their Husbands

There is a lot of confusion as to why Paul preached views that were contradictory. He told the church not to enslave, or not to become slaves. Then he told women that their husband was their master. He told men that it was better to be celibate. But the bible also says that ‘He who finds a wife finds a good thing.’

To understand this we need to take a look at first century life. And, we also need to realize that Paul preached to the Gentiles – not the Jewish population.

1. There were three things that abounded in the Gentile world.
2. Men were preferred as sexual partners over women
3. Women promised in the marriage that they would worship their husbands gods, have no friends other than her husbands, accept her husband’s adultery/mistresses, and obey her husband. The husband was not required to make any promises.
4. Philosophers did not believe that marriage was a wise, or civic, enterprise
5. Men dominated and owned women. Women were often locked into rooms of a house and never left, met company, worked, or had any say in their lives.
6. Wife abuse was so rampant in the firs century A.D that the Emperor Augustus created “marriage without hand” (sine manu) to protect women. This law stated that a woman and her dowry remained under the jurisdiction of her father’s family. The father could be taken back and married to another man if the husband abused her.
7. There were no real laws against rape unless a woman was noble and had political power of her own.
8. A wife had one purpose in her husband’s life, to bear children. She was often excluded from his life, social life, and business dealings.

The Apostle Paul Called for Reform

Paul addresses these family issues in:
1. Thessalonians 4:3-8
2. 1 Corinthians 7
3. Ephesians 5: 21-33
4. Colossians 3:18-19

He ordered men to abstain from sexual immorality, to keep his eyes on hsi wife, to only have one wife, and to regularly have sexual relations with her.

To understand Paul’s teaching we need to understand the language he Used

The Husband is Head of the wife

The word for headship is (kephale). It has two meanings. A) it denotes a source or origin. B) there is a political intonation that refers to authority or leader. In 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5:21-33 the meaning is (b) the political or source.

The wife must submit to her husband

The word used here is (hypotasso) a military term that means to order, or arrange properly.

Paul wanted Christians to life a lifestyle that contrasted to the Gentiles lifestyle. He wanted them to abandon their pagan conduct and follow the example of the Jewish population. This included an order between men and women, as well as benefits of both.

When Paul compared the Gentiles to the Jews he saw a Godlike model in the Jewish marriages:

1. The husband was ordered by the Old Testament laws to provide for his wife. 1 Timothy 5:8 states that a man who did not provide for his wife was worse than an infidel.
2. A husband was not allowed to abuse his wife. Yet who has given a husband the authority to beat his wife?” Rabbi Rothberg ruled that “For it is the way of the Gentiles to behave thus, but Heaven forbid that any Jew should do so. And one who beats his wife is to be excommunicated and banned and beaten.” Rabbi Rothenberg also ruled a battered wife could petition a Rabbinical Court to compel a husband to grant a divorce, with a monetary fine owed her on top of the regular ketubah money. These rulings occurred in the midst of societies where wife-beating was legally sanctioned and routine. ( Grossman, Pious and Rebellious)
3. A wife was allowed her own house, financed by her husband, if she needed it. And, if her husband had a large house then the innermost rooms belonged to her for her own use.
4. A wife could conduct her own business and her husband could not force her to provide for herself, even if she had more money than he did.
5. A woman was allowed to walk out of her husband’s house, free, if he did not provide for her. She could also force him to divorce her.
6. A woman could enter into business, negotiate loans, own land, etc – if her husband approved. She did not need to surrender her earnings to her husband.
7. It was an accepted fact that women were more spiritual than men.
8. The Talmud (Where the Old Testament Comes from) sets a minimum provision which a husband must provide to his wife. And the Rabbinic courts could compel him to do so, even if he had to hire himself out to do so:
a. enough bread for at least two meals a day
b. sufficient oil for cooking and for lighting purposes
c. sufficient wood for cooking
d. fruit and vegetables
e. wine, if it is customary in the locality for women to drink it
f. three meals consisting of fish and meat, on each shabbat
g. a silver coin (Hebrew: ma’ah) each week, as pocket-money
9. The Talmud argues that a man should love his wife as much as he loves himself, and honour her more than he honours himself

Compared to the modern views of marriage which are taught in most churches, Paul’s ideal of a marriage is still a better choice.

Note: This is just one view of the translation of this Greek Word. See ‘women as pastors’ series on GodLovedMe.com for another.

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