How can Bible-believing thoughtful Christians sometimes fundamentally disagree with each other? Good example this week with the decision about women bishops. Often it is because we weigh Scripture differently. Scripture is designed to interpret Scripture. But Bible is not systematic theology! Bible is history, narrative, story, wisdom, poetry, law, letters, written over centuries under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and read by us depending on the same Holy Spirit. At the end of the process, honest faithful people come up with different answers.
It is even more important therefore that we therefore carefully weigh scripture holding sermon ‘bites’ together. So that Ephesians 5:21-6:9 needs, in my view to be read in the context of all we discovered about the relationship between men and women in Genesis, and Song of Songs and the book of Ruth, and most importantly Ephesians itself.
Do you have rules for your house?
Three important facts about the household codes of Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 Peter:
1. They were motivated by the desire to avoid slander on the church.
2. They provided instructions on Christian conduct within the household.
3. They addressed the same three groups that other Greek and Jewish writers addressed, but focused more on the responsibility of the husband, father, and master.
1. Mutual Submission (5.21)
Mutual submission is the logical conclusion of the principle that Christians are part of each other.
Mutual submission is love in action. It brings equal valuing and is the power by which a Christian community establishes itself.
Mutual submission will not allow us to promote ourselves and our own interests, but neither does it make us "doormats" to be used by others.
Legitimate submission cannot be coerced. The text assumes that everyone in the community is supported and enhanced.
Mutual submission is to mark the relations of all Christians. This does not mean people will always agree, for they will not, just as Paul and Barnabas did not agree about Mark (Acts 15:36-41). Paul refused to submit to his opponents (Gal. 2:5) when the character of the gospel was at stake.
But if the issue is not error, the gospel calls for the sacrifice of self-centeredness and the valuing and promoting of other people.
2. The relationship of wives and husbands (5:22-33).
Few issues create as much debate and disagreement as that of the status and roles of women, particularly as they relate to their husbands.
The marriage relation is the most revealing of who we really are, and for those who are married, it is the primary relationship for discipleship
a. Wrong turns.
Too often men have concluded that women are theirs to control or treat as they like. The painful fact is that these verses have been used like a club to keep women in a defeated role. Christians and non-Christians alike know and use the statements "Wives, submit to your husbands," and ‘The husband is head of the wife," even if they have never read Ephesians 5.
Such misuse of Ephesians 5 is scandalous and cannot be tolerated. Christians must take a much more forceful stand against wife abuse and against all denigration of women. Churches must not only speak out against the problem, but be much more willing to confront, instruct, and if necessary, to discipline members who are abusive. The problem is broader than physical abuse. The attitudes of men about women, and specifically of husbands about wives, are often demeaning.
Verse 23 is surely one of the most abused and debated texts in the New Testament. Its focus is not on the privilege and dominance of the husband, and Paul never intended to suggest that wives were servants, compelled to follow any and every desire of the husband.
The text does not tell women to obey their husbands, even the word ‘submit’ has to be implied from verse 22, nor does it give any license for husbands to attempt to force submission.
What is said to wives and husbands is only an example of the love and mutual submission required of all Christians.
The gospel includes a focus on the equality of all persons before God and in the church. The old valuations based on sex, race, and economic status can no longer define relationships. All Christians are called to live in mutual submission in the unity found in Christ.
What Paul meant by saying wives should "submit to [their own] husbands as to the Lord" is unclear. The words could mean:
(1) in a similar manner as the submission they give to the Lord,
(2) as if the husband were the Lord, or
(3) as part of their submission to the Lord.
While it is hard to imagine Paul suggesting the second option, either of the other two would be legitimate, but the theology implicit in the third choice clearly underlies the text.
The wife’s relation to the Lord is the basis, motivation, and qualification of her submission to her husband. In verse 24 the words "in everything" indicate that all spheres of life are included in this submission, provided, of course, that it is in keeping with life lived "to the Lord."
Wives stand in a giving relation to their husbands as their husbands do to them. All our passage asks is that wives give up self-centeredness, "take seriously their mutuality with their husbands, and promote the benefit of their husbands. It underscores that no part of life may be excluded from the marriage relationship.
The debate has intensified in recent years over the meaning of kepbale, the Greek word for "head." Many have assumed that kephale means "boss," "person in charge," or "leader," since the word has those metaphorical meanings in English.
The problem is that this metaphorical meaning is not common in Greek. Some have suggested that the metaphorical use of kepbale should be understood as "source." A few scholars have suggested a meaning such as "prominence" or, for Ephesians 5:23, "one who brings to completion."
The most important factor for determining the meaning is the context. We therefore need to be careful even with the word ‘source’. Paul is not arguing in 5:22-24 that the husband is source of the wife as Christ is source of the church. Paul is not arguing that Christ is the source of the principalities and powers, but that he has authority over them.
Yet, Ephesians 5:23 does not focus on authority, but on the self-giving love of both Christ and the husband. Just as Jesus redefined greatness as being a servant (Matt. 20:26-27), Paul redefines being head as having responsibility to love, to give oneself, and to nurture.
Contrary to ancient society, the husband’s role is for the benefit of the wife. The activity of both wife and husband is based in their relation to Christ and in his giving himself for the church.
Headship does not give husbands privilege and superiority. The analogy about the headship of Christ and that of the husband cannot conclude that the headships are identical. Christ is Lord over all things,- the husband is not lord over anything.
The point of the headship analogy is the responsibility husbands have to give themselves to their wives as Christ gave himself for the church. They must be givers, not takers.
Husbands are to give up self-centeredness and any privilege of being head in as themselves, and recognise that the unity of marriage makes their wives like their own bodies.
Paul’s comments on unity in marriage (Genesis 2:24), make an important point that sexual intercourse is not merely a physical act. Rather, it as an incorporative act whereby two people are bound together and made one. The wife becomes part of her husband and for him to love her is to love himself.
The way Christian marriages are to function is therefore clear from this text. Both partners live first of all in, to, and for the Lord. The real head of the marriage is always Christ, and both partners are to live in mutual submission to each other, seek to promote each other within the purposes of Christ, and live out the oneness of their relationship.
It is obvious that this text addresses an ideal situation. What if the husband does not practice mutual submission and love? What if the husband only wants a servant?
In the ancient world a woman would have had few choices, and for some women this may still be true. Peter urged wives to instruct husbands and win them to Christ by godly conduct (1 Peter 3:1-6). This too expresses an ideal, but it does point to the need for instruction for husbands.
e. Couple of dangers.
There are dangers, however, in focusing on oneness and mutual submission.
1. A husband or wife may give so much attention to the marriage partner that he or she ends up idolising the spouse (cf. 1 Cor. 7:32-35). The marriage relationship is only one relationship. The primary commitment of both is always to the Lord, and mutual submission within marriage is only an expression of commitment to the Lord.
2. So much attention is placed on oneness that individuality is lost. Despite oneness, husband and wife remain two different people with different purposes and callings from God. If dependence becomes overemphasised, one or both partners will be less productive, and the death of one spouse will create havoc in the life of the other.
3. The relation of Christ and the church (5:22-33).
We sometimes get bogged down in the duties of the church and forget the role of Christ in the church.
This text underscores both the love of Christ and the lordship of Christ. That he is head and the church submits to him ought to be a constant reminder that the church has no other agenda than that set and modelled by Christ.
Church leaders do not lead churches, other than to help them find the purposes of Christ.
A greater sense that Christ leads the church, joined with mutual submission in finding his purposes, will move the church past many of its current problems.
As members of his body, Christians are part of Christ: They are one with him and one with each other.
EXTRA MATERIAL FOR THOUGHT BASED ON EPHESIANS 5, COLOSIANS 3 and 1 PETER 3
1. Notice that none of these “commands” use the word “obey”. The only occurrence of something with that word is the example given of Sarah in the 1 Peter passage (discussed below).
2. In the time of the Roman Empire, there were things called ‘household codes’
“The section 5:21–6:9 addresses what we call “household codes.” In Paul’s day, many Romans were troubled by the spread of “religions from the East” (e.g., Isis worship, Judaism and Christianity), which they thought would undermine traditional Roman family values. Members of these minority religions often tried to show their support for those values by using a standard form of exhortations developed by philosophers from Aristotle on. These exhortations about how the head of a household should deal with members of his family usually break down into discussions of husband-wife, father-child and master-slave relationships. Paul borrows this form of discussion straight from standard Greco-Roman moral writing. . But unlike most ancient writers, Paul undermines the basic premise of these codes: the absolute authority of the male head of the house.”
The Ephesians passage
1. Commentators note that the verb ‘submit’ is not actually in the text, but has to be supplied from the preceding verse (v 21) commanding all Christians to ‘submit’ to other another—a radical break from the standard patriarchal marriages and household codes of the day. The further implication is that whatever "submission" a wife is called to, her husband (as a Christian) is called to the same thing:
The final expression of being filled with the Spirit is “submitting to one another” because Christ is one’s Lord. All the household codes Paul proposes are based on this idea. But although it was customary to call on wives, children and slaves to submit in various ways, to call all members of a group (including the male head of the household) to submit to one another was unheard-of.
“The participle of Ephesians 5:21 is the last of a series of four, as shown above, and clearly belongs to what precedes it. This verse also supplies the verb “to submit” for this hard saying, without which Ephesians 5:22 would be grammatically incomplete and without meaning. The verse in Greek reads literally: “Wives, to your husbands as to the Lord.” The verb “to submit” is absent and can only be read into the sentence because of the intimate connection between the two verses. Ephesians 5:21 is therefore transitional, both belonging to what precedes and setting the agenda for what follows. Thus the kind of radical self-submission to one another which evidences the fullness of the Spirit is now explored in terms of its implications for husbands and wives. That is, what does this self-submission,modelled in Jesus, look like in marriage? [HSOBX: at Eph 5]
Paul begins this three-part structure in a very unusual way. As the climax of his exhortations describing a Spirit-filled life (Eph 5:18–21), Paul calls on all believers to submit to one another (Eph 5:21). It is true that the following context delineates different ways to submit according to differing societal roles; but the very idea of “mutual submission” strained the common sense of the term “submission”: householders were sometimes called to be sensitive to their wives, children and slaves, but they were never told to submit to them.
That Paul envisions the same sort of mutual submission to cover the slave and master relationship is clear from his exhortation in Ephesians 6:9: after explaining how and why slaves should submit (Eph 6:5–8), he calls on masters to “do the same things to them,” an idea which, if pressed literally, goes beyond virtually all other extant writers from antiquity.
2. The model for this community-wide submission is Christ:
“Paul has clearly shown throughout the epistle that Christians are a new social order created to express the fullness of Christ in the midst of the old, fallen order. What he is saying in Ephesians 5:21 is that the Spirit empowers Christians to exist in relationship with each other in a radical, culturally transforming way, namely, through mutual self-submission. The ground for this radically new approach to human relationships is “out of reverence for Christ.” The reason for that reverence (or, perhaps better, awe) is the radical nature of Christ’s earthly life, the total, free submission of himself as God’s suffering servant, climaxed in his self-giving on the cross (Eph 5:2, 25). It is reverence and awe toward that self-giving love that is to motivate our mutual self-submission to each other. [HSOBX: at Eph 5]
3. Even the injunction to submit for wives—as for all believers—is based on freedom, not authority!:
"The submission of the wife to the husband is to be “as to the Lord.” It is no longer to be the kind expected as a matter of course by cultural norms and forced upon women—who were seen as inferior to males in both Jewish and Gentile cultures. No, her submission is to be freely chosen, being there for her partner “as to the Lord,” that is, as a disciple of the Lord, as one who followed in his servant footsteps, motivated by self-giving love. This kind of submission is not a reinforcement of the traditional norms; it is rather a fundamental challenge to them. [HSOBX: Eph.]
“Second, the duties are listed as reciprocal duties. Whereas most household codes simply addressed the head of the household, instructing him how to govern other members of his household, Paul first addresses wives, children and slaves. Far from instructing the paterfamilias how to govern his wife, children and slaves, he omits any injunction to govern and merely calls on him to love his wife (undoubtedly a common practice, but rarely prescribed), be restrained in disciplining his children and to regard slaves as equals before God. This is hardly the language of the common household code, although some ancient philosophers also exhorted moderation and fair treatment of subordinates. The wife, children and slaves are to regulate their own submission voluntarily. [NT:DictPL: s.v. “Man and Woman”; notice how different this is from the codes—the women are addressed in the codes, instead of just the men]
4. Not only does Paul not use the word ‘obey’, his indications of what he means by ‘submit’ is related to humility and not to obedience:
"Most ancient writers expected wives to obey their husbands, desiring in them a quiet and meek demeanour; some marriage contracts even stated a requirement for absolute obedience. This requirement made sense especially to Greek thinkers, who could not conceive of wives as equals. Age differences contributed to this disparity: husbands were normally older than their wives, often by over a decade in Greek culture (with men frequently marrying around age thirty and women in their teens, often early teens)…In this passage, however, the closest Paul comes to defining submission is “respect” (v. 33), and in the Greek text, wifely submission to a husband (v. 22) is only one example of general mutual submission of Christians (the verb of v. 22 is borrowed directly from v. 21 and thus cannot mean something different).
“Writers sometimes closed a book or section with a concluding summary; Paul here summarizes the point of 5:21–32: the wife should respect her husband, and the husband should love his wife. Although ancient moralists expected wives to respect their husbands (and Jewish teachers also expected the reverse), moralists usually also emphasized the wife’s “obedience”; Paul’s exhortation to wives here would thus strike most ancient readers as quite weak.
“All ancient moralists insisted that wives should “submit” to their husbands, but few would have stopped short of using the term “obey,” as Paul does here
“A final argument [of Paul’s] for the validity of a radically new self-submission of wife to husband is now given: “As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Eph 5:24). What is the nature of the church’s submission to Christ? It is freely assumed in humble response to his self-giving, sacrificial servanthood and his continuing empowering and nurturing presence. The church’s submission to Christ has nothing to do with external control or coercion. For the life and ministry of Jesus demonstrates uncompromisingly his rejection of “power over others” as valid in the new creation which he is inaugurating (Lk 22:24–27). Christ stands in relation to the church, his bride, not as one who uses his power to control and demand, but rather to invite and serve.
“Third, Paul does not describe the duties that are attached to submission. An ancient reader could therefore have been tempted to read a wife’s submission as meaning all that it could mean in that culture—which, as we have noted above, involves considerably more subordination than any modern Christian interpreters would apply to women today. (Applying the text in this way would return women to rarely being able to attend college, to disallowing them voting privileges, etc.) However, Paul does define the content of the wife’s submission once, in quite a strategic place: at the concluding summary of his advice to married couples. The wife is to “respect” (phobeomai, Eph 5:33) her husband. Although the term usually translated “submission” (hypotasso) could be used in the weaker sense of “respect,” household codes demanded far more of wives than mere respect; Paul’s view of women’s subordination even in this social situation could not be much weaker than it is.” [NT:DictPL: s.v. “Man and Woman”]
"Here at Colossians 3:18, as Schweizer (164) claims, it denotes the subjection of oneself, as Christ subjected himself to the Father (1 Cor 15:28). The demand for mutual submission among Christians (Eph 5:21) shows that “be subordinate” bears a close relation to Christian“humility”) [WBC: Col]
5. The radical break this represents, can be seen in the fact that this ‘code’ makes unusual demands on the husband/father/master:
“The final expression of being filled with the Spirit is “submitting to one another” because Christ is one’s Lord. All the household codes Paul proposes are based on this idea. But although it was customary to call on wives, children and slaves to submit in various ways, to call all members of a group (including the paterfamilias, the male head of the household) to submit to one another was unheard-of. [BBC: Eph.]
“Although it was assumed that husbands should love their wives, ancient household codes never list love as a husband’s duty; such codes told husbands only to make their wives submit. Although Paul upholds the ancient ideal of wifely submission for his culture, he qualifies it by placing it in the context of mutual submission: husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, by willingly laying down their lives for them. At the same time that he relates Christianity to the standards of his culture, he subverts his culture’s values by going far beyond them. Both husbands and wives must submit and love (5:2, 21). [BBC: Eph]
“Although the ancient instructions to husbands normally stressed how he should rule his wife, Paul stresses instead that he should love her [BBC: Col.]
“Having radically challenged the nature of the culturally expected and demanded submission of the wife to the husband, Paul now goes on (Eph 5:25–32) to show what self-submission by the husband to the wife looks like in practice. The husband’s self-submission (Eph 5:21) is to express itself in the kind of radical self-giving love that Christ demonstrated when “he gave himself up for” the life of the church (Eph 5:25). Husbands were of course expected to have erotic regard for their wives. But within a culture in which women were often not more than doormats on which male supremacy could wipe its feet, and in a religious setting where Jewish males thanked God daily that he had not made them a Gentile, a slave or a woman—in such a context erotic regard for the wife more often than not became a means of self-gratification and control over the wife. That position of superiority is daringly challenged by Paul’s call upon husbands to love (agape) their wives, that is, to be there for them and with them in self-giving, nurturing, serving love. For that is the way Christ loved the church, and husbands, like their wives, are to be imitators of Christ (Eph 5:2). [HSOBX: Ephesians]
What becomes clear from all this is that the submission of wives to husbands in these passages is not about “obedience” per se, but about “respect” and “humility”; and, that this respect/humility character is a self-chosen moral goal to be sought after by all who seek to emulate the self-giving and self-servanthood of Jesus.
Although there is a huge debate over what the word kephale (‘head’) means in NT Greek, the impact of that would be minimal on these 2 passages.
First, we have already seen that Paul defined ‘submission’ within the passage as something other than obedience.
Second, we have noted that Paul has deliberately avoided the word ‘obey’ in a context where it was universally expected (and Paul can never be accused of ‘softening his language’ for ‘politically correct’ reasons, as his track record more than amply shows!)
Third, the examples of submission given in the text (i.e., Jesus, the Church) are examples of freely-chosen humility and servanthood.
“A final argument [of Paul’s] for the validity of a radically new self-submission of wife to husband is now given: “As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Eph 5:24). What is the nature of the church’s submission to Christ? It is freely assumed in humble response to his self-giving, sacrificial servanthood and his continuing empowering and nurturing presence. The church’s submission to Christ has nothing to do with external control or coercion. For the life and ministry of Jesus demonstrates uncompromisingly his rejection of “power over others” as valid in the new creation which he is inaugurating (Lk 22:24–27). Christ stands in relation to the church, his bride, not as one who uses his power to control and demand, but rather to invite and serve. [HSOBX: Eph.]
Fourth, the kephale debate is about "source/provider versus boss/authority" as the most plausible ‘default’ meaning/emphasis of the word, but in this passage it’s clearly much closer to "source/provider". The description of Christ as Head over the church centres on His self-giving and His nurture of it–NOT His authority over it. Even the ‘head/body’ image is used explicitly in the context of ‘nurture’ and not authority. So at least in this passage, the meaning of ‘head’ seems much closer to ‘source/provider’ and the point seems to be about ‘unity’ and ‘nurture’ instead of ‘authority’ and ‘control’.
"Although Greek and Roman moralists sometimes alluded to the unity of husband and wife, the image was especially prominent in Judaism, which shared Paul’s and Jesus’ dependence on Genesis 2:24, mentioned explicitly in Ephesians 5:31. The head-body analogy of 5:23 here becomes an image of unity rather than one of authority. [BBC: Eph.]
Fifth, the kephale debate–in both here and in I Cor 11–suggests caution in trying to ‘see’ authority in this word, especially in Paul:
"Although Paul is arguing from a play on words [note: in 1 Cor 11], modern interpreters have often fastened on the single word head and debated what Paul meant when he called the husband the wife’s “head.” Some scholars have argued that the term means “authority” or “boss”; the Hebrew for “head” (rosh) could mean this, and occasionally kephale means this in the Septuagint (Grudem; Fitzmyer). Other scholars have disputed this meaning, noting that the translators usually bent over backward to avoid translating the Hebrew rosh with the Greek term kephale; kephale does not normally mean “authority” or “boss” in Greek. These latter scholars often argue for the meaning “source,” which it does mean in some texts (Mickelsen in Mickelsen, 97–117; Scroggs, 284). Scholars favoring the “authority” meaning, however, respond that “source” is an even rarer meaning of kephale in the Septuagint than “authority.” Both groups of scholars are undoubtedly right in what they affirm but may fall short in what they deny; the term sometimes means “source” and sometimes means “authority,” at least in “Jewish Greek” influenced by the rhythms of the Septuagint…The question is, what sense should be attributed to the term in 1 Corinthians 11:3? Given the allusion to Adam as Eve’s source in 1 Corinthians 11:8, it is very likely that Paul speaks of the man (Adam) as his wife’s “source,” just as Christ had created Adam and later proceeded from the Father in his incarnation (in which case 1 Cor 11:3 is in chronological sequence; see Bilezikian, 138). [NT:DictPL: s.v. “Man and Woman”]
"Like the English word “head” and the Greek word kephale, the Hebrew word rosh has first of all the literal meaning “head of man or beast.” But like English and Greek, it also has numerous figurative meanings. In an exhaustive study of how the Septuagint translators rendered the Hebrew word rosh, the following data emerged. In the more than 200 times when it refers to a physical head, the translators almost always used kephale. About 180 times, rosh clearly has the figurative meaning of “leader” or “chief” or “authority figure” of a group. There is thus a close similarity between the English “head” and the Hebrew rosh; figuratively, both frequently designate an authority figure….When the translators, however, sought the appropriate Greek word to render this figurative meaning, they used not kephale but archon (and its derivatives) in the great majority of cases (138 times). Archon means “ruler,” “commander,” “leader.” Its derivatives include meanings such as “authority,” “chief,” “captain,” “prince,” “chief of tribe,” “head of family.” Most of the remaining occurrences of rosh (when it designates an authority figure) are translated by several other specific Greek words (such as hegeomai, “to have dominion over”). In only eight out of 180 cases was kephale used to translate rosh when it designated the leader or ruler of a group. It is very possible that one of the figurative meanings of kephale (namely, “top” or “crown”) allowed the translator to use it in describing a prominent individual. It may also be that in these few cases one of the Septuagint translators simply used the literal equivalent for rosh, namely kephale (since both mean “head”). This is in fact what happens all too frequently in any translation when it is too literal. The exact equivalent may, in fact, distort the meaning conveyed by the original in its own context….It is clear from this data that the Greek translators were keenly aware that kephale did not normally have a metaphorical meaning equivalent to that of rosh. This linguistic evidence, which suggests that the idea of “authority over” was not native to the Greek kephale, has led numerous scholars to see behind Paul’s use of “head” either the meaning “source, origin” or “top, crown, completion.”…Another factor to take into consideration is that nowhere else in the New Testament is kephale used to designate a figure of authority. If that had been a prominent meaning, it could have served well in numerous places in the Gospels where the head or master of a household appears; yet it is never used to convey this meaning (see, for example, Mt 10:25; 13:52; Lk 13:25; 14:21)….If the readers of Paul’s Greek did not hear our “headship” concept in the word kephale, but rather the idea of “source, origin,” what did it convey to them, and how did that meaning in 11:3 lay the foundation for Paul’s admonitions about appropriate hair length and decorum in public worship? Cyril of Alexandria, an important Greek-speaking leader of the church in the fourth century, commenting on this text wrote: “Thus we say that the kephale of every man is Christ, because he was excellently made through him. And the kephale of woman is man, because she was taken from his flesh. Likewise, the kephale of Christ is God, because he is from him according to nature….It would therefore seem best to translate 1 Corinthians 11:3 as “I want you to understand that Christ is the source of man’s being; the man is the source of woman’s being; and God is the source of Christ’s being" [HSOBX: 1 Cor 11.3 ‘headship]
Sixth, many of the other uses in Paul of this seem to support a general ‘non-authority’ content for this word:
He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. [Col 2.19; note the explicit organic and ‘source’ imagery].
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. [Col 1.18; this seems closer to the ‘crown’ or ‘capstone'(?), but the head/body image (i.e. of union, growth-source) is definitely different from a head/group image (i.e., authority).]
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. [Col 2.9,10 NRSV…note that the NIV/NASB makes the literal ‘head of‘ into ‘head over‘ without any textual warrant. Christ, as the one who holds all together , is also now the ‘source’ of all power/authority in the cosmos too…This text is commonly used as a prooftext for kephale=authority, but I suspect that this might be another case of ‘source’, since elsewhere Christ is said to ‘fill all things‘, cf. Eph 4.30. So, although kephale can mean ‘authority’, in Paul it very often does not. Translators in Eph 1.10 likewise change the ‘in Christ’ to ‘under Christ‘. Eph 1.23 does have an ‘over‘ so it might be closer to some kind of authority there–although one should note the ‘filling’ terminology in the passage as well.].
Seventh, this is in keeping with even the classical usage of the word:
"Plato and Aristotle, among others, maintained that sperm was formed in the brain. The Pythagoreans in particular considered the head to be the source of human generation. They refrained from eating any part of an animal or fish head lest the creature be a reincarnated ancestor and the head the very organ from which they themselves had derived. By the time of Plato, adherents of Orphic religion were using kephale with arche (“source” or “beginning”; Kern Orph. Fr. 2.nos. 21 a.2., 168; Plato Leg. IV.715E and sch; Proclus In Tim. II 95.48. (V.322); Pseudo-Aristides World 7; Eusebius Praep. Ev. 3.9; Deveni Papyrus col. 13, line 12; Stobaeus Ecl. 1.23; Plutarch Def. Orac. 436D; Achilles Tatius, fr. 81.29), as did the translators of the LXX version of Isaiah 9:14–15.
"W. Grudem views arche as conveying the sense of “rule or dominion” when used synonymously with kephale, but this concept did not find wide acceptance among the ancients. Irenaeus equates head with “source” when he writes of the “head and source of his own being” (kephaleun men kai archeun teus idias ousias; PG 7.496. See also Tertullian Marc. 5.8). Hippolytus emphasized the productivity of this bodily member when he designated the head as the characteristic substance from which all people were made (PG 16.iii.3138). Philo declared, “As though the head of a living creature, Esau is the progenitor of all these members” (Philo Congr. 61). Kephale was considered by Photius to be a synonym for procreator or progenitor (Photius Comm. 1 Cor 11:3. ed. Staab 567.1). The concept of head (kephale) as “source,” “beginning” or “point of departure” is readily apparent in the Pauline corpus. Kephale is used in apposition to arche in Colossians 1:18. (As an aside, one should recall that the head is the part of the body which is usually born first, a feature that may shed light on Christ as the firstborn of the dead, and the firstborn of all creation [Col 1:15, 18].)
"While there was debate as to whether the head, breast or stomach was the dwelling place of mind and soul, philosophers viewed the head as the organ from which there issued forth that which was important or distinctive of humans—most notably speech. The head resembled a spring, from which power flowed forth to other bodily organs (Philo Fug. 182; Aristotle Prob. 10 867a). It was placed nearest to the heavens, drawing from thence its power and distributing the life force to every member of the body (Philo Det. Pot. Ins. 85; Praem. Poen. 125). This concept of the head as source of supply to the whole body is well attested among medical writers and is twice echoed by Paul (Eph 4:15–16; Col 2:19). In Colossians 2:10 Christ is presented as the head (“source”) of the originative power and ability needed for the believer’s fulfilment as he himself embodies the fullness of the Godhead [NT:DictPL: s.v. "Head"]
These two meanings are not "mutually exclusive and exhaustive" at all. They could both be present in a passage easily, and the two meanings can be seen to blend together logically in some places. But in each textual case, we have to justify which core sense we ‘find’ and then what ‘additional connotations’ or nuances we might also see in the passage. This is simply honest exegesis, and as such, requires SOME textual evidence to be provided for seeing ‘additional nuances’ in the use of the word.
So, given the (a) definition and examples of ‘submission’ given in the passage; (b) the lack of explicit references to ‘obedience’ or ‘rulership’; (c) the probable ‘source’-oriented meaning of kephale in this passage; and (d) the lack of any clear ‘majority meaning’ for kephale in Paul of ‘authority’, I don’t see any reason to try and re-interpret the passage into some support for patriarchal marriage.
In fact, to argue that it DOES support the conventional paterfamilias/patriarchal marriage concept of the first century Roman empire, gets us in much ‘worse’ exegetical and theological problems:
"Finally, the wife’s subordination to her husband is directly parallel to the slave’s subordination to his or her master. In both cases one submits as “to Christ”—who is compared with a slave’s master no less than with a wife’s husband. Most interpreters recognize today that Ephesians 6:5–9 does not address the institution of slavery; it simply gives advice to slaves in their situation. Like some Stoic philosophers, Paul could recommend securing one’s freedom where that was possible (1 Cor 7:21–22); like the rare philosophers whom Aristotle chastised for suggesting that slavery was against nature and therefore wrong, Paul clearly regarded the subordination of humans as unnatural (Eph 6:9). Whereas the OT enjoined children’s obedience to morally sound parental instruction (Deut 21:18–21), the OT nowhere explicitly enjoins the submission of wives and slaves (although they regularly appear in subordinate cultural roles, which God sometimes contravened). Paul does call on wives and slaves in his culture to submit in some sense; but he does not thereby approve of the institutions of patriarchal marriage or slavery, both of which are part of the authority of the paterfamilias and the household codes he here addresses." [NT:DictPL: s.v. “Man and Woman”]
"That Paul’s instructions to wives and slaves are limited to wives and slaves culturally subordinated to the male householder has often been noted (e.g., Martin, 206–31; Giles, 43). The objection that Paul could have rejected the institution of slavery but clearly would support the institution of marriage (Knight, 21–25) simply begs the real question. It is not the institution of marriage per se, but the institution of patriarchal marriage, that Paul addresses here; that was what appeared in the household codes. Paul elsewhere calls on believers in normal circumstances to submit to all who are in authority (Rom 13:1–7; see Civil Authorities), as Peter does (1 Pet 2:13–17); but this does not mean that he regards the particular authority structures (e.g., kingship) as necessary for all cultures. Because Paul’s instructions specifically address institutions as they existed in Paul’s day, interpreters of Paul who do not insist on reinstituting slavery or the monarchy should not insist on patriarchal marriages which subordinate wives, either. Indeed, given Paul’s weak definition of the wife’s submission as “respect” (Eph 5:33; see above), it appears that Paul advocated her submission in only a limited manner even for his own social situation." [NT:DictPL: s.v. "Man and Woman"]
"Third, Paul does not describe the duties that are attached to submission. An ancient reader could therefore have been tempted to read a wife’s submission as meaning all that it could mean in that culture—which, as we have noted above, involves considerably more subordination than any modern Christian interpreters would apply to women today. (Applying the text in this way would return women to rarely being able to attend college, to disallowing them voting privileges, etc.) However, Paul does define the content of the wife’s submission once, in quite a strategic place: at the concluding summary of his advice to married couples. The wife is to “respect” (phobeomai, Eph 5:33) her husband. Although the term usually translated “submission” (hypotasso) could be used in the weaker sense of “respect,” household codes demanded far more of wives than mere respect; Paul’s view of women’s subordination even in this social situation could not be much weaker than it is." [NT:DictPL: s.v. "Man and Woman"]
1. None of the passages explicitly command wives to obey their husbands.
2. Paul’s departures from the patriarchal household codes of the day are radical, and unsupportive of a male-dominance model.
3. Paul specifically undermines the absolute authority of the male head of the paterfamilias.
4. In the Ephesians passage, Paul requires husband and wife BOTH to submit to one another.
5. This mutual submission is self-chosen, and modelled after the voluntary submission and servanthood of Jesus.
6. Submission is seen, in the Pauline passages, to be defined/described as ‘respect’ instead of ‘obedience‘.
7. Paul overturns the male’s authority over the household by ‘ordering’ him to serve, in agape love, the wife (and to ‘submit’ to his slaves/servants, as well).
8. The Pauline passages thus teach a mutual self-giving and self-servanthood for one another.
9. The word kephale in the Pauline passages do not alter this understanding of the more explicit elements of Paul’s argument (as observed above).
10. Paul’s injunctions to wives and slaves in these passages do not support a view that he was in favour of slavery or patriarchal marriage structures.
11. The case in First Peter is different from that in Paul, in that it deals with a mixed marriage as opposed to a Christian marriage.
12. For practical reasons, the wife is urged to ‘go with the flow’ everywhere possible, but without compromising her Christian convictions and morals.
13. The submission of the wife was to be freely chosen by her, for the Lord’s sake, and not because of some ‘authority structure’ sanctioned by Peter.
14. The word for ‘obey’ only comes up in the Sarah example–it is not used by Peter in the imperatives.
15. The example of Sarah was a half-example; it showed only the wife-side of mutual submission (since the non-believer could not be expected to be living the ‘other side’ yet).
16. Sarah’s calling Abraham ‘lord’ was a term of deference and respect (the subject of Peter’s injunction here), not of ‘recognition of male authority‘
17. Using this half-a-verse example in Peter to build a theory that the bible supports Roman-like male-dominance patriarchal marriages (over against the many verses otherwise–including the Pauline ones discussed at the beginning) is exceptionally flawed !
18. Peter’s instructions are for this special case only (i.e. mixed marriages with a strong/elite Roman male head) and not for Christian marriages; and his few comments on Christian marriages indicates that he held a mutual-submission model of marriage like Paul did.
19. The resulting view of Christian marriage is one of liberating beauty and equality, and genuine self-giving like-Jesus love for one another–an immense improvement over the Graeco-Roman model, for BOTH partners…