Monday, April 15, 2013

Rebellion Against Submission

Pastors (and others) often comment how women hate the “S” word, submission, and remind women that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. They say GOD instituted social order and the role of wives and women is to submit to the AUTHORITY of husbands and men. They claim GOD ordained it to be so from the beginning of creation. They emphasize that women must bow to the command from God, and label women who stand up for what they believe is right as self-seeking egoists, disobedient to God, feminist, rebellious, and so on. Some presume that any time a husband abuses or even beats his wife that it is because she was not submissive.

But could it be that women who cringe at the “S” word are not rebelling against God at all? Could it be they are actually rebelling against the misuse of scripture? After all, women are notorious for having a strong gut sense that something is wrong, but they often cannot specify what is not meeting the “smell” test. The fact that pastors, husbands, and even female speakers emphasize the “command” to wives to submit makes it even more difficult for women to put a finger on what it is that is wrong with the command to women to submit. But they do know the teaching makes them feel extremely uncomfortable. Many women force themselves to go against that sixth sense that God gave them for their protection, and make themselves submit even though they know they are agreeing to a wrong, stupid, or even ridiculous choice.

The first thing women notice, but can't put a finger on, is the incongruity of having to submit to someone who flaunts their supposed God-given right to authority. On a gut level, they know that someone with real authority would have no need to flaunt it. Not only would that authority just be present and not emphasized, but also the person with authority would behave in such a way as to inspire trust, respect, admiration, and a sense that the person with authority loves, cares, and makes sensible decisions that favor the wife instead of himself. Wives who cringe about submission don't have husbands who put them first.
The second thing women notice on a gut level, is that husbands are also commanded to submit. Paul tells husbands and wives to submit to one another, and then goes on to tell wives to submit to their husbands. On some level, wives KNOW those directions to husbands are basically “husbands submit to your wives in the fear of God.” Yet, since pastors don't teach that, most wives can't put their finger on what doesn't add up. Men who have understood the real message of Ephesians 5 tell us the command to husbands requires much more laying down of self-will and self-service than the mere command to submit that is given to wives. It is the husbands who are to love so deeply that they leave father and mother and CLEAVE to their wives. It is the husbands who are to love so deeply, who are so besotted, they lay down their lives and die daily for their wives. Wives who cringe about submitting, know on a gut level that something important is missing, but they can't put a finger on it.

The third thing women notice on a gut level, is how scripture is being used to abuse them. The verses about submitting one to another are glossed over, the verses about wives submitting to their AUTHORITY-HUSBANDS are emphasized, and the verses about husbands loving so deeply that they die daily for their wives are covered up. The translators helped with this one. Since the passage tells us all to submit to one another, where is the verse that tells husbands to submit to their wives? Women know it is there, but they cannot put a finger on it. Check out the word “ought” in Strong's concordance. “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.” This command is taught with the emphasis one would use to say “One ought to change the bed sheets every week.” or “One ought to mow the grass every week.” or “One ought to keep their check book balanced.” Many people don't do these things with that kind of regularity, so the “ought” contains little power. But the biblical “ought” has a different meaning, which women understand on a gut level without ever having looked it up. #3784 “from the base of 3786, through the idea of accruing. to owe, fig, to be under obligation, (ought, must, should) mor. [which I guess means moral] to fail in duty:...” The meaning of ought is much closer to our “MUST.” So the phrase would read “So MUST men love their wives as their own bodies.” It is not optional husbands, it is a commandment, a requirement, a debt that keeps accruing.

The fourth thing wives notice is that nowhere are husbands commanded to take authority over their wives. Pastors say the command to wives to submit to their husbands infers that husbands have authority over their wives. Yet in the preceding verse, husbands are also told to submit to their wives, so that would infer wives have authority over their husbands. Should wives flaunt their authority, too? They claim that the husband as “head” gives him authority, but wives know on a gut level that this does not add up. If being “head” gave husbands authority, wouldn't the commands to husbands spell out to take authority over their wives? Instead the command is to love, sacrifice for, and cherish. The husband authority doctrine reeks too much like a skunk in the garage.

Once again, that sixth sense women have is correct. They ought to be cringing at the submission teaching. Their sixth sense is telling them the real rebels against God are the men who insist on being the authority over their wives. They find it grinds them the wrong way to admit the pastors who insist on husband authority are abusing scripture, are likely hateful and controlling to their own wives.

On some level, women know that the more insistent a man is that his wife submit to him, the more obvious it is that he is disobedient to and rebelling against God. It is his job to love, sacrifice for, and cherish his wife, not to rule her. These days it is husbands who are rebelling against God, who have that Jezebel spirit they talk about, who have a slaveholding spirit similar to witchcraft. These women need to stand up and do what is right, to not give in to wrong, not even for an hour.

                        Galatians 2:5
To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.”

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See A Mennonite woman fights to save her family yet keep her faith.


  1. The grammar of the Greek verb hupotasso, translated “to submit” or “to be subject” in Eph 5:24 is not imperative: it is not a command! The grammar of the Greek verb is passive/middle indicative. IMO (link) the passive is the accurate understanding. The following two translations reflect this accurately:

    Young’s Literal Translation
    “but even as the assembly is subject to Christ, so also are the wives to their own husbands in everything.”

    Darby Bible Translation
    “But even as the assembly is subjected to the Christ, so also wives to their own husbands in everything.”

    OTH, Paul uses imperative/command grammar repeatedly in his Eph 5 exhortations for husband love.

  2. See also here where I have highlighted a list of translations of Eph 5:24 which insert an imperative which is not there in the Greek!

    There is no “should be”, “ought to” nor “must” in Eph 5:24 in the Greek. Those are (erroneous IMO) interpretational additions by translators.

  3. I tried the submission thing...ended up as a battered wife. It doesn't work. Love this article so much! Thank you.

  4. Charis,
    Isn't it amazing (but not so surprising) how male translators and interpreters and preachers have managed to place the emphasis where it wasn't, and to de-emphasize what was emphasized? I'm beginning to wonder if it is worse than what we know. I recently heard a speaker explain how those who copied by hand added notes in the margin, or simply decided some addition said it better, and how that copy from then on was copied over and over.

    When I put that together with the way methodicial Paul normally writes, I find it odd that Paul would begin that section of Eph 5 with submit one to another in the fear of God, and then omit telling husbands to submit to their wives. Granted, commanding husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (sacrificially) IS a type of submission or even more than submission. But even so, Paul usually spells things out. I would like to know what the earliest copies of Eph 5 say. Do they also omit "husbands submit to your own wives as to the Lord. For the wife is...?"

  5. Movingon,
    I'm glad you commented! I, too, tried the submission thing and my then-husband chose to abuse. You are right, it does NOT work. Unless one prefers chronically ill, maimed, or dead wives.