How should two individuals in a Biblical marriage act toward one another? Many peoplewill have strong opinions on this subject. Two sides of the argument have emerged.Complementarians will hold onto the distinction of roles, believing men should be the head andhave authority over the wife. Egalitarians will focus on the equality between the two individuals,with equal rights and roles given to each partner. But what did Paul, the likely writer of Ephesians, think? In this paper I will look at Paul¶s view of the roles of both wives and husbandsin Ephesians and focus on what the text actually says. There is currently ³no understanding of Ephesians 5:22-6:9 that has won scholarly consensus´ (Talbert 2007, 150)The passage I will focus on is Ephesians 5:21-5:33. I will assume Paul wrote the letter (even though this has been questioned in recent scholarship). The letter did not have chapters andverses at the time of its writing, and would have been read aloud to a congregation of believers.The message to married couples in chapter five would be in the context of the extravagantspiritual blessings and unity within the gospel community in the first few chapters, and the newlife and exhortations of the second half of the letter. The household codes of Ephesians 5:22 ± 6:9 are written to believers¶ households (Thompson 2005, 91 and Talbert 2007, 139).
In Ephesians 5:22 Paul says plainly,
wives, submit to your own husbands
(EnglishStandard Version). ³To submit´ can mean ³to place oneself under´ (Williamson 2009, 155) or can mean ³to accept/recognize the authority of another´ (Johnson 2008, 210). In this verse it isdirected to wives, but in the verse earlier the text says ³be subject to one another in the fear of Christ´ (New American Standard Version). Marshall suggests that this makes the particular exhortation to wives inconsequential, as all believers in the previous verse are called to mutual