Paul's Letter

Ephesians
Class Objectives: 1. Learn how to hear God's Word to the original recipients of this epistle. 2. Then hear, understand, and apply God's Word to US through God's Word to them. 3. Discover and explore key underlying background issues that will help us better understand Ephesian and the rest of the New Testament. 4. Therefore becoming better “self-feeders” as Christ-followers. Class Instructor: Dave Leigh

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Recommended Reading: How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart (Chapter 3) How to Read the Bible Book By Book, Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart (pp. 340-346) Outside Assignment: Read the epistle through in three different translations (one sitting each), over the next five weeks. If you don't own three translations, you can read many online at www.BibleGateway.com. Ideally you should choose one from each of the following categories:
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a dynamic equivalent translation (e.g. TNIV, NIV, NLT) a formal/literal translation (e.g., NASB, NKJV, NRSV) a paraphrase (e.g. the Message, the Living Bible).

As you read, you should begin by trying to get the “big picture” or overview. Seek to establish the writer's key concerns, his major points, and allow an outline for form in your mind. Write the outline down as it takes shape and look for ways to revise it with each reading. It will help to make a list of the key problems addressed by the author and see if you can detect his attitudes or feelings about these matters. Keep asking yourself, why is Paul spending time on this? And from this try to determine what may have been going on in Ephesus at the time Paul wrote. Watch for repetitious words or phrases, patterns and parallels. For example, how does Paul use the phrase “heavenly realms” or “heavenlies” (depending on your translation), “alive” and “dead,” “walk,” or other motifs.

Notes on Understanding New Testament Epistles (Letters)*
EPISTLES: • • • • • Comprise the entire NT except the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation! Tend to follow an established literary form Are “occasional” in nature Not treatises but contain “task theology” answering questions we may not be asking Not as easy to interpret as they may appear, but provide a lab with many cross applications to other genres

Basic Rule: A text can’t mean what it couldn’t mean to its author or original readers. Suggestions for learning to think contextually: Historical Context • • • • Consult Bible dictionary or Commentary Introduction before reading. Try to read the whole epistle through in one sitting on your first time through, before going back to take things apart. Pay attention to what you can learn about: the recipients, author’s attitudes, indications of why the letter was written (specific problems) Note natural and logical divisions, using or creating an outline

Literary Context • Think in paragraphs as you trace the author’s argument

Problem passages • • Some are difficult because they were not written to us. Accept that some parts “not for us” may be lost to us. Identify certainties so as to “get the point” by building on them or the underlying “why” in the text.

Second Rule: Whenever we share comparable particulars (i.e. similar life situations) with the original hearers/readers, God’s Word to us is the same as his Word to them. • • • • • • • • • • When our particulars are different, transcendent principles may emerge from careful exegesis. The principle must be applied only to genuinely comparable situations. Be careful of passages that only appear to have comparable particulars. Recognize and work with cultural relativity Distinguish between the central core of the Bible’s message and what is dependent or peripheral to it. Distinguish between what the NT itself sees as inherently moral and what is not (e.g. Paul’s sin lists). Note where NT has uniform/consistent witness and where it reflects difference. Distinguish between principle and specific application. Factor in the possible cultural options open to the author. Exercise Christian charity toward how others handle these difficulties.

Reminder: The proper stance toward the Bible as the Word of God is always one of prayerful humility and expectation. As the Holy Spirit must be our Teacher, remember to pray before reading, while reading, and after reading! *Adapted from How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Stuart & Fee)

Ephesus – Excerpts from Wikipedia – 7/21/09
Roman Asia and of the day. Ephesus was at its peak during the first and second century CE. The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (Diana), who had her chief shrine there, the Library of Celsus, and its theatre, which was capable of holding 25,000 spectators. This open-air theater was used initially for drama, but during later Roman times gladiatorial combats were also held on its stage, with the first archaeological evidence of a gladiator graveyard found in May 2007. The population of Ephesus also had several major bath complexes, built at various points while the city was under Roman rule. The city had one of the most advanced aqueduct systems in the ancient world, with multiple aqueducts of various sizes to supply different areas of the city, including 4 major aqueducts.

Site of the Temple of Artemis

The city of Ephesus itself was founded as an AtticIonian colony in the 10th century BCE on the Ayasuluk Hill, three kilometers from the center of antique Ephesus (as attested by excavations at the Seljuk castle during the 1990s). The Greek goddess Artemis and the great Anatolian goddess Kybele were identified together as Artemis of Ephesus. The many-breasted "Lady of Ephesus", identified with Artemis, was venerated in the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the largest building of the ancient world according to Pausanias (4.31.8). Pausanius mentions that the temple was built by Ephesus, son of the river god Caystrus. before the arrival of the Ionians. Of this structure, scarcely a trace remains.

Ephesus and Christianity
Ephesus was an important center for Early Christianity from the CE 50s. From CE 52-54, Paul lived here, working with the congregation and apparently organizing missionary activity into the hinterlands. He became embroiled in a dispute with artisans, whose livelihood depended on selling the statuettes of Artemis in the Temple of Artemis (Acts 19:23–41). He wrote between 53 and 57 CE the letter 1 Corinthians from Ephesus (possibly from the "Paul tower" close to the harbor, where he was imprisoned for a short time). Later Paul wrote to the Christian community at Ephesus, according to tradition, while he was in prison in Rome (around 62 CE). Anatolia was associated with John, one of the chief apostles, and the Gospel of John might have been written in Ephesus, c 90-100. Ephesus was one of the seven cities addressed in Revelation (2:1–7), indicating that the church at Ephesus was still strong.

During the Hellenistic period
In 356 BCE the temple of Artemis was burned down, according to legend, by a lunatic called Herostratus. By coincidence, this was the night that Alexander the Great was born. The inhabitants of Ephesus at once set about restoring the temple and even planned a larger and grander one than the original. .... When Alexander the Great defeated the Persian forces at the Battle of Granicus in 334 BCE, the Greek cities of Asia Minor were liberated. The pro-Persian tyrant Syrpax and his family were stoned to death, and Alexander was greeted warmly when he entered Ephesus in triumph. When Alexander saw that the temple of Artemis was not yet finished, he proposed to finance it and have his name inscribed on the front. But the inhabitants of Ephesus demurred, claiming that it was not fitting for one god to build a temple to another. After Alexander's death in 323 BCE, Ephesus in 290 BCE came under the rule of one of Alexander's generals, Lysimachus.

The Theatre in Ephesus

During the Roman period
When Augustus became emperor in 27 BCE, he made Ephesus instead of Pergamum the capital of proconsular Asia, which covered western Asia Minor. Ephesus entered an era of prosperity. It became the seat of the governor, growing into a metropolis and a major center of commerce. It was second in importance and size only to Rome. Ephesus has been estimated to be in the range of 400,000 to 500,000 inhabitants in the year 100, making it the largest city in

Ephesus in Biblical Context

Luke's account of Ephesus: Acts 18:18-22

Acts 18:24-28

Acts 19:1-22

Acts 19:23-20:1

Paul's Letter

Acts 20:13-38

Ephesians

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Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus: 1 Corinthians 15:32 1 Corinthians 16:8

1 & 2 Timothy received at Ephesus: 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:18, 4:12

Jesus addressed a letter to Ephesus: Revelation 1:11 Revelation 2:1-7

Paul's Prayers for the Ephesians
At two points in this letter Paul writes down the things he was praying for in regards to his readers. Group Activity: 1. Your group will be assigned one of the following passages: Prayer 1: Ephesians 1:15-22 Prayer 2: Ephesians 3:14-21 2. Have someone in your group read your passage out loud. 3. As a group, generate a list summarizing all Paul's prayer requests. In other words, what did he ask God for on behalf of the Ephesians?

4. After you have a list the group agrees on, then discuss what you think each request means and why the Ephesians especially needed this.

5. As a group, share with each other which of Paul's requests you would most like to have answered in your own life and why.

God's Purpose Revealed
God purposed in himself for a stewardship/administration of the fullness of the times to bring all things in heaven and earth into connection and alignment with the Messiah as their sum and head. (Ephesians 1:9-10) Count Your Blessings! Read Ephesians 1:3-14 (one sentence in Greek!). Use the space below and/or on the back back of this page to list all the things mentioned there that God has given you!

Paul's Letter

Ephesians

to the

How many did you count? _____________________________ Steps to Fulfilling God's Purpose (Chapters 2-3) Jews & Gentiles Jews & Gentiles Jews & Gentiles God reveals his saved by grace reconciled thru united as one wisdom through through faith the cross household the new entity (the Church) a a a K

Deeper experience of God's fullness

Ephesians: Walking Worthily Group Activity:
As you study the following passages, have members of your group read them from two or three translations. Then answer the questions as a group.
Paul's Mamertine Prison. Lower level dungeon, showing the hole through which prisoners were lowered.

Ephesians 4:1-3 A. Make a list of the qualities Paul says should characterize the Ephesians lifestyle in view of their high calling. Create a brief definition of each characteristic by having members cite examples from people they've known. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. B. Discuss why, in your opinion, Paul emphasizes these qualities for the Ephesians? *

C. Discuss which of these qualities you find lacking today in yourself and/or in the Christian community today.

* If you have time, you may want to compare and contrast these to the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), Paul's “Love
Chapter” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8), and Jesus' Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12)

Ephesians 4:4-6
A. Working as a group, make a list of things Paul says's there is only ONE of. Still working as a group, try to define/explain each item on the list. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

B. Discuss anything in or about this list that raises new questions for you or that gives you new insights. In the space below, generate a group list of these things:

C. Why do you think Paul pointed out the things on this list to the Ephesians? Why did they need to be reminded of these things?

D. Which of these things do you think need to be reiterated and reinforced for today's Christian community?

I Believe in Male Headship
I believe in male headship unabashedly and unreservedly. I cannot evade the issue or rationalize my way around it. The headship of husbands is clearly and unassailably taught in the New Testament. Moreover, the Bible clearly declares that the response of wives to their husbands' headship is submission in everything. Indeed, the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. As the church is subject to Christ, so wives must be subject in everything to their husbands (Eph. 5:23-24). This precept is not given in Scripture as a recommendation, a suggestion or a piece of advice that may be optionally followed. It is an absolute mandate that requires the same level of adherence as any of its commandments. Coming from an advocate of the reform movement called egalitarian or, more accurately, non-hierarchical complementarian, the above statement sounds regressive. For this reason, I also caution against citing it without referencing what follows. A basic rule of sound hermeneutics requires that no biblical term or concept be infused with meanings foreign to it. For this reason, the meaning of head in the New Testament must be defined from within the New Testament itself. It cannot be assumed that the value of head in the English language as authority, leader or master carries over automatically into the New Testament's use of the same word head. There is no doubt that, among his multiple functions in regard to the church, Christ is authority, leader and master over the church since the scope of his universal lordship includes the church. Therefore, what is under scrutiny is not the concept of the lordship of Christ over the church. Rather, it must be determined whether the word head, when used to describe Christ's relationship to the church, carries the same meaning of lordship or whether it is invested with a different value. The glib assumption may not be made that, because head denotes authority in English, it also does so in the language of the New Testament. Fortunately, the meaning of head can be easily determined within its scriptural use with reference to the headship of Christ in relation to the church, his body. Whatever function the head of the church performs in connection to the body defines the meaning of the term head in the New Testament. The word head is used five times in the New Testament to define the relation of Christ to the church. As will be shown below, the use of head is consistent in all of those texts. Eph. 1:22-23. The passage that immediately precedes this text exalts the supremacy of Christ in his session. But in relation to the church, the role of Christ is described as being appointed as head for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. The headship of Christ is never over the church in the New Testament. Here, it is for the church. As head, Christ gives the church fullness. He provides for the church's growth. The function is not one of authority but of servant provider of what makes the church's growth possible. Eph. 4:15-16. Christ is the head from whom the whole body grows and builds itself up. The function of the head in relation to the body is to provide it with growth. Headship is not an authority role but a developmental servant function.

by Gilbert Bilezikian
Eph. 5:23. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which is the Savior. As head of the church, Christ is its Savior. If head had meant authority, the appropriate designation for Christ would have been "Lord" instead of "Savior" which is consistently a self-sacrificing, lifegiving servant role in the New Testament. Col. 1:18-19. Christ is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead. Through his blood, shed on the cross, all things are reconciled to God. In a passage that celebrates Christ's supremacy over all creation, this text describes Christ as the source of the life of the church through his resurrection from the dead and because of the reconciliation obtained through his self-sacrificing servant ministry at the cross. Headship is not defined in terms of authority but as servant provider of life. Col. 2:19. Christ is the head from whom the whole body grows. The function of head in relation to the body is not one of rulership but of servant provider of growth. Christ as head to the church is the source of its life and development. This survey indicates that head, biblically defined, means exactly the opposite of what it means in the English language. Head is never given the meaning of authority, boss or leader. It describes the servant function of provider of life, growth and development. This function is not one of top-down oversight but of bottom-up support and nurture. Parenthetically, it must be briefly noted that Christ is also head of every power and authority (Col. 2:10). Believers are given fullness in Christ who is head of (not "over" as the NIV has it) every power and authority. Christ is the source of growth for believers just as he is the source of the life of powers and authorities which he has created (1:16). This meaning of head as source of life is verified in the one remaining reference to Christ's headship in the New Testament. In 1 Cor. 11:3, Christ is not head for or of the church, his body, but he is the head of every man. This text is made of three carefully sequenced and studiously related clauses: the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. The question must be raised as to whether the meaning of head in this text is consistent with its use in the other references surveyed above or whether it has suddenly changed to mean something different in this one passage. Sometimes, the word head in this text is carelessly infused with its meaning in the English language to obtain this hierarchical order: God head over Christ--Christ head over man--man head over woman. This top-down vertical chain of command would then go as follows: God-Christ-man-woman.

However, such results are obtained by manipulating the biblical text. In order to make the text say what the Scripture does not teach in this passage, its three clauses must be taken out of their original sequence and rearranged. The Apostle Paul knows exactly how to structure hierarchies in perfect descending order (see 12:28, for instance). In 1 Cor. 11:3, he is not structuring a hierarchy. In keeping with the theme developed in the immediate context, Paul is discussing the traditional significance of origination. The sequence that links the three clauses is not hierarchy but chronology. At creation, Christ was the giver of life to men as the source of the life of Adam ("by him all things were created" Col. 1:16}. In turn, man gave life to the woman as she was taken from him. Then, God gave life to the Son as he came into the world for the incarnation. When the biblical sequence of the three clauses is not tampered with, the consistent meaning of head in this verse is that of a servant function as provider of life. Two additional considerations must be taken into account in order to get at the real meaning of head in the New Testament. There are scores of references in the documents of the New Testament to leaders from all walks of life: religious leaders, community leaders, military leaders, governmental leaders, patriarchal leaders and church leaders. Never is anyone of them designated as head. A profusion of other titles is used, but head is conspicuously absent from the list. The obvious explanation for this singularity is that

head did not mean "leader" in the language of the New Testament. The second observation relates to the constitutive elements of the human person according to the New Testament. Again, it contains scores of references to the elements that make up the human being. The functional components of personality are body, flesh, psyche, spirit, mind, conscience, inner person and heart. Head is never cited as the governing center of the person. In the New Testament, that function generally devolves to the heart or to the mind. Only once is there a reference made to the head aspiring to wield authority over the body only to deny emphatically its right to do so (1 Cor. 12:21). Head is used figuratively in relation to the body only in the five references surveyed above and always with the meaning of servant provider, never with that of authority. When the New Testament metaphor of headship is understood generically and is protected from corruption by meanings foreign to the text, it describes perfectly the relation of Christ to the church and of husband to wife as servant life-givers. The fall had made of Adam ruler over the woman (Gen. 3:16). Christ makes of husbands servants to their wives in their relationship of mutual submission (Eph. 5:21). For this reason, I believe in male headship, but strictly in its New Testament definition. []

A Challenge for Proponents of Female Submission to Prove Their Case from the Bible
by Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, Professor Emeritus, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL
“Open my eyes that I may see Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me. Place in my hands the wonderful Key That shall unclasp and set me free” Clara H. Scott, Hymn The purpose of this challenge is to prompt Christians to grapple with biblical facts rather than to accept traditional assumptions about female roles. What is at stake is not the role of women as much as the definition of the church as authentic biblical community. Is it possible for a local church to aspire to define itself as biblical community when more than half its constituency is excluded from participating in the most significant aspects of its life? In the course of history, the church has often lost its way. For instance, during a thousand years, the church forgot something as crucial as the way of salvation and replaced it with methods of salvation by works that never worked. The biblical teaching was finally recovered by the Reformers just a few centuries ago. Likewise, many present-day Christians believe that, along the way, the church has lost its own definition as community and replaced it with false definitions that reduce it to the status of institution, establishment, hierarchy, corporation and programs. This challenge provides an incentive to help Christians rediscover for themselves the biblical definition of the church as God’s community of oneness. To anyone who might be tempted to think that this challenge is a feminist plot to subvert the traditional church, it should be pointed out that feminism is a quest for equal rights and equal power. A basic premise of this presentation is the exact opposite, the belief that the Bible requires all Christians to pursue relationships of mutual submission and of reciprocal servanthood. An effective approach to tackle this challenge would be to go through this document one page at a time, to check the references with an open Bible at hand, and to search the Scriptures in order to supply the requested references. Responses will be evaluated by a panel of three Professors Emeriti of the Department of Biblical and Theological Studies at Wheaton College who, between them, represent more than a century of cumulative university-level Bible teaching. Responses may be sent to the address below. For a fuller treatment of the themes presented in this document consult the vast resources referenced in the catalog of CBE, online, or contact CBE where copies of this document may be ordered: Christians for Biblical Equality 122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 218 Minneapolis, MN 55404-2451 (612) 872-6898 1. The Challenge Cite a text from the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 that enjoins or entitles men to exercise authority or leadership over women, or that designates men as “head” or “spiritual head” over women. The Facts There is not a hint, not even a whisper about anything like a

hierarchical order existing between man and woman in the creation account of Genesis, chapters 1 and 2. In fact, the exact opposite is clearly taught in these two chapters. Both man and woman were made in God’s image (1:26-27) and they both participated in God-assigned ministries without any role distinctions (1:28). The creation order established oneness, not hierarchy (2:24). The first indication of a hierarchical order between man and woman resulted from the entrance of sin into the world (3:16). The subordination of women to men was not part of God’s original design. It resulted from the violation of God’s creation order. The use of the word “helper” for the woman reinforces the relation of non-hierarchical complementarity that existed between the man and the woman prior to the fall (2:18). In the language of the Old Testament, a “helper” is one who rescues others in situations of need. This designation is often attributed to God as our rescuer. The word denotes not domesticity or subordination but competency and superior strength (Ex. 18:4; Deut. 33:26, 29; Psalm 33:20, 70:5, etc.). According to the text, the woman was instrumental in rescuing the man from being alone and, therefore, from not being yet the community of oneness that God had intended to create with both of them (Gen. 1:27). As “helper,” she pointedly enabled him to become with her the community that God had intended to establish through their union. The word “helper” is used specifically in this context of God’s deliberation to create community (2:18). The biblical text becomes violated when the word “helper” is wrenched away and lifted out of this specific context to be given other meanings that demean women by reducing them to the level of “complements” or docile conveniences created to improve the quality of male life. In the account of the created order within which every relation of authority is carefully spelled out (1:26, 28; 2:17), there is not the slightest suggestion of a structure of authority existing between the man and the woman. Instead, the explicit evidence provided in those texts describes both as participating cooperatively in reflecting the image, and both fulfilling jointly the tasks of rulership and dominion without the necessity of a structure of hierarchy between them. 2. The Challenge Cite a text from the Bible that assigns women subordinate status in relation to men because Adam was created before Eve. The Facts In the first chapter of Genesis, the sequence of creation moves, in increasing levels of sophistication, from material things to plants, to animals and, finally, to humans. According to chapter two, the process culminates with the creation of the woman. Obviously, chronological primacy was not intended to denote superior rank. No such lesson is drawn within those two chapters from the fact that the man was created before the woman. In 1 Corinthians, chapter 11, an argument is presented for women to wear a head covering during worship. It is based on the differences in status between men and women that derive from the fact that man was created first (v. 7-10).

But, according to the same text, all those considerations have been decisively swept aside “in the Lord,” that is, in the Christian community (v. 11). In the new covenant, both men and women are in a relation of originative interdependence since men must recognize that they owe their existence to women just as the woman was made from man. Only the primacy of God as creator of all has significance since all things come from him, including both men and women (v. 11-12). As a result of this leveling of the ground “in the Lord”, a covering is not even required of women since their hair is their covering (v. 15). The ministry restrictions exceptionally placed on women in 1Timothy, chapter 2 are not based on the creation order. They are drawn from the temptation account. No conclusion is made in the text from the fact that Adam was formed first except for the one lesson that Adam was not deceived but Eve was and she became the first transgressor (v. 13-14). Adam had been instructed about the prohibition relative to the tree directly from God while Eve was not yet in existence. For this reason, of the two, she was the one less prepared to face the tempter. He was present during the temptation episode but he remained silent (Gen. 3:6). Despite this disadvantage, she boldly engaged the tempter and she became deceived. This illustration from the Genesis temptation story has nothing to do with assigning all women of all times a subordinate status in church life. It was cited in this epistle to make the point that untaught and unqualified individuals should not aspire to teaching functions or to positions of leadership. They should first become quiet learners (1 Tim. 2: 11-12). 3. The Challenge Cite a text from the Bible that defines the headship of Christ to the church as a relation of authority or of leadership. The Facts The New Testament defines the headship ministry of Christ to the church as a servant relation designed to provide the church with life and growth. This headship is never presented as an authority or lordship position. Eph. 1:22-23. Christ is supremely and universally sovereign, but as head for the church, it is not said that he rules over it. Instead, he provides his body with the fullness of him who fills all in all. He causes the church to grow and flourish. Eph. 4:15-16. Christ as head provides the body with oneness, cohesion and growth. This is a servant-provider role, not one of rulership. Eph. 5:23. Christ is head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. His headship to the church is defined as saviorhood which is biblically defined as a servant, self-sacrificing function, not a lordship role. Col. 1:18. Christ is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead. As its head, Christ is the source of the church’s life. Col. 2:19. Christ is the head from whom the whole body grows because it is nourished by him. He is servant-provider of life and growth to the church. Obviously, Christ is Lord of all and therefore Lord of the church. But never does the New Testament define Christ’s relation to the

church as its head in terms of lordship, authority or rulership. As head to the church, Christ is always the servant who gives the church all she needs to become his radiant Bride. So is the husband to his wife (Eph. 5:25-30), within a relationship of mutual submission (v. 21). The word “head” used figuratively in the English language refers to boss, person in authority, leader. It never has that meaning in New Testament Greek. There are hundreds of references in the New Testament to religious, governmental, civic, familial and military authority figures. Not one of them is ever designated as “head.” Even Christ, as “head” of all rule and authority, remains their original giver of life and fullness (Col. 2:10; 1:16). Similarly, Christ was never called “head” of the church until after his crucifixion, the supreme expression of his servant ministry as the giver of new life. Whenever Christ is described as “head” to the church, his ministry is that of servant-provider. Similarly, as head to his wife, a husband is a servant-provider of life, of fullness and growth, not one who exercises authority over her. 4. The Challenge Cite a text from the Bible that makes men head over women, or a husband head over his wife. The Facts There is no such statement in the Bible. The text in 1 Corinthians 11:3 is often cited as establishing a top-down hierarchy: God over Christ--- Christ over man--- man over woman. However, this biblical text must be radically dismembered and its components reshuffled in order to produce such results. The untouched biblical sequence is totally different and it does not present a hierarchical structure: Christ, head of man--- man, head of woman--- God, head of Christ. The teaching in this text concerns the concept of “head” as giver of life. In creation, Christ (as the Word, John 1:3) gave life to man; man to woman (as she was taken from him, Gen. 2:21-23); and in the incarnation, God gave life to Christ (Luke 1:35). This understanding of “head” as “provider of life” is consistent with the immediate context which deals with the significance of origination (1 Cor. 11:7-12). The meaning of “head” as servant-provider of life in this text is also consistent with the headship passage in Ephesians 5:21-33. There, the church is described as being subject to Christ in the reciprocity of servanthood because Christ as head is also servant to the church as its Savior and as the source of its welfare. Saviorhood in the New Testament is not a lordship role but one of self-sacrifice in radical servanthood. Likewise, the wife is servant to her husband as she submits to him because the husband is servant to her in radical headship as he gives himself up for her as Christ did for the church (v. 2530). Both the general concept of headship in the New Testament and this passage of Scripture are infused with the notions of mutual submission (v. 21) and, therefore, of reciprocal servanthood.

Such biblical teachings reduce the imposition of hierarchical relations between husbands and wives to irrelevance, if not to abuse in their relationship. 5. The Challenge Cite a New Testament text according to which men are given unilateral authority over women or are permitted to act as their leaders. The Facts Once the fall shattered the God-given oneness between man and woman, they both faced a dysfunctional relationship. The woman was warned that, because of the disruption of the fall, the husband would rule over her (Gen. 3:16). Oneness would turn into abuse. But no mandate was ever given to the man to claim this rulership over the woman. There is no allowance made in the New Testament or license given for any one believer to wield authority over another adult believer. The pledge exacted from brides in an older wedding ceremony, “Wilt thou obey him…?” had no biblical warrant. There is no text in Scripture that enjoins wives to obey their husbands. The call is for mutual subjection (Eph. 5:21). Both wives and husbands must relate to each other “in the same way” as slaves submit to their masters (1 Peter 2:18; 3:1, 7 NIV) in order to follow in the steps of Christ, their supreme example (2:21). The New Testament singularly cites the case of Sarah who obeyed her husband Abraham (1 Peter 3:6). Sarah’s case was cited in full knowledge of the fact that Abraham pointedly obeyed his wife just as often as she obeyed him, once even under God’s specific command (Gen. 16:2, 6; 21:11-12). Christians are solemnly forbidden by their Lord to establish among themselves structures of authority similar to the hierarchical systems that prevail in secular society. Those who aspire to attain such positions of leadership must, instead, become servants and slaves of those over whom they wish to wield authority (Matt. 20:25-28). Leadership is always defined in the New Testament as shared leadership. In church life, leadership is a team function entrusted to a plurality of persons such as elders. These act as servants who have recourse to the exercise of authority only exceptionally when required to do so because of disciplinary or crisis situations and then, only corporately. In marriage, husbands and wives are bonded in a relationship of non-hierarchical complementarity within which each partner brings to the union his or her leadership gifts in a structure of shared leadership. (For resolving biblically situations of decisional impasses, see Bilezikian, Beyond Sex Roles, pp. 212214). 6. The Challenge Cite a New Testament text that exempts husbands from being mutually submitted to their wives. The Facts Male rulership has prevailed since the time of the fall. For

Christians, the new covenant in Christ should reverse this situation to the original goodness of the created order, from rulership back to the reciprocity of oneness (Matt. 19:4-5). Submission to Christ requires of believers that they submit to one another (Eph. 5:21). According to this text, where there is no mutual submission, reverence for Christ is wanting. Because the newness of the Gospel calls for new relationships, a paradigm shift has occurred that requires of Christians, including husbands and wives, to be in mutual subjection. Since the practical expression of subjection is servanthood, this means that both husbands and wives are servants to each other. But perhaps in order to overcome the ruler legacy that men have inherited from the fall, it is additionally specified that Christian men must also love their wives to the point of Christ-like selfsacrifice for their sakes (v. 25-30). For this precise reason, in the only New Testament text where the word “authority” is used (in verb form) to describe husband and wife relations, husbands are not exempt from coming under the authority of their wives. A Christian wife has exactly the same authority rights over her husband as a husband has over his wife (1 Cor. 7:4). In this text, the Scriptures teach specifically that a husband has no authority over his own body but that his wife does. (Interestingly, the NIV has considerably softened its translation of this challenging statement). In fact, decisions that affect their marital relationship may not be made unilaterally by either husband or wife (v. 5). They require the agreement of both parties. They both have equal say in the matter since either of the two may veto the proposed course of action. Thus the New Testament requires that, beginning with the most personal expression of conjugal life, the one that emblemizes par excellence the union of man and woman, relationships be controlled jointly and that decisions be made by consensus with the involvement of both partners on a basis of equality. This call to mutual subjection and to joint participation in the exercise of authority strikes at the very foundation of any authority claim of husbands over wives. 7. The Challenge Cite a biblical text according to which men are favored over women in the distribution of spiritual gifts, including those that qualify believers for ministries of leadership. The Facts In the garden, Adam and Eve were jointly entrusted with the dual responsibility of populating the earth and managing the environment (Gen. 1:28). The two mandates were committed to both of them without any role differentiations on the basis of gender. In order to fulfill this command, the man and the woman must have brought their best abilities to the accomplishment of both tasks in a relationship of equal partnership, best defined as non-hierarchical complementarity. On the day of Pentecost, Peter gave the inaugural speech that marked the beginning of the life of the church universal. The very first statement he made concerned the consequences of the new availability of the Holy Spirit to all believers. The outpouring of the Spirit promoted both men and women without differentiation to the ministry of prophecy (Acts 2:16-18), a

function that was regarded as one of the highest ministries in the life of the church (1 Cor. 12:28). Consistently, the New Testament declares that all the members of local churches are endowed with spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-12) without any mention of women being excluded from such ministry roles. Furthermore, the text teaches that no individual has the right to excuse oneself (v. 1416) and that no one has the right to exclude someone else from doing ministry (v. 20-22). On such premises, all may prophesy (14:31), and both men and women may lead in worship through prayer and the spoken word (11:4-5) such as the four women who prophesied in the church of Caesarea (Acts 21:9). In this light, it is evident that the statement in 1 Corinthians 14:33-36 forbidding women to speak in church has nothing to do with women exercising their spiritual gifts. In this passage, the Apostle was dealing with a different issue that did not concern the exercise of spiritual gifts. He was actually opposing, by quoting their words derisively, abusive church leaders who were intent on excluding women from active participation in the life of the church. (For a commentary on this passage, see Bilezikian, Community 101, pp. 86-89.) 8. The Challenge Cite a biblical text that exclusively disqualifies women from exercising church leadership ministries. The Facts The one passage that is ultimately adduced to claim that the New Testament prohibits women to teach or to have authority over men is found in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. However, the same section of Scriptures imposes similarly restrictive leadership and ministry prohibitions on men. According to it, a man’s family status provides the indispensable credential for his ability to lead the church (3:4-5, 12). The only men who may aspire to positions of church leadership, which include the ministries of teaching and managing the affairs of the church, must be married (“husbands of one wife”), and have children who are submissive and respectful, and who are believers (Titus 1:6). According to this text, ability to manage family provides indispensable proof of ability to manage the local church. Such requirements disqualify from service not only women, but also all men who are single; all men married but childless; all men married but who have only one child; all men married but who have children too young to profess faith; all men married but who have one unbelieving child or children; all men married and whose children are believers but not submissive; all men married and whose children are believers and submissive but not respectful. These exceptionally harsh and restrictive requirements are all the more amazing since the New Testament favors singleness for both men and women as preferred status to do ministry (Matt. 19:11-12, 1 Cor. 7:25-35), and since the New Testament emphatically requires the total utilization of all available spiritual gifts in the ministries of the church, regardless of marital status or gender. Of course, the Scriptures provide an explanation for those apparent contradictions. The singularly restrictive structure of

ministry prescribed in 1 Timothy and Titus was established as a remedial measure for churches that had fallen into a state of terminal crisis. Its underlying principle of restricting ministry in sick or immature churches to few leaders of proven managerial competency is relevant today to churches that find themselves in similarly extreme situations. However, the prevailing New Testament model of full participation of the total constituency in the ministries of the local church applies to healthy churches (See Bilezikian, Community 101, pp. 82-128). It should be sternly noted that, for the sake of biblical consistency and integrity of practice, churches that insist on keeping women out of ministries of leadership on the basis of the prohibitions of 1 Timothy 2, thereby make themselves accountable to keep also men out of the very same positions on the basis of the similarly restrictive provisions stipulated in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and listed above. 9. The Challenge Cite a biblical text that prohibits the ordination of women to church ministry positions. The Facts The evidence indicates that women were entrusted with the ministry of the Word in New Testament churches. There were female prophets (Acts 2:17-19; 21:9), female teachers (Acts 18:26; Titus 2:3), female church leaders (Rom. 16:1, 3-5; Phil. 4:3; Col. 4:15), and even a female apostle by the name of Junia (Rom. 16:7). There is no text in the Bible forbidding women to be ordained because, according to the New Testament, all believers without exception are ordained by God to do ministry on the basis of their spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:7, 11; 14:31; Col. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11). In fact, those very ministries that are traditionally viewed as requiring “ordination” carry only a supportive role according to the New Testament (Eph. 4:11) while the executive part of the ministry, the works of service that build up the body of Christ, belongs to the “nonordained” people of the congregation (v. 12). The practice of ordaining select people to hold positions of authority in churches should be viewed as an ecclesiastical tradition rather than as a biblical prescription. Thus, Paul and Barnabas were already among the recognized prophets and teachers of the church in Antioch when they received the laying on of hands, not to make them prophets or teachers but to commission them for a short-term sub-ministry (Acts 13: 1-3). It was their recognized spiritual gifts as prophet/teacher that had validated their ministry, not the subsequent laying on of hands. This New Testament practice of the laying on of hands can hardly be associated with the current practice of ordination since Timothy received it twice, one at the hand of elders (1 Tim. 4:14), then from Paul himself (2 Tim. 1:6). In both cases, the purpose was the impartation of a spiritual gift, not the recognition of the ministry deriving from it as is the case with ordination as currently practiced (see Bilezikian, Community 101, pp. 155-161).

Since the institution of ordination is traditional rather than biblically prescribed, there can be no valid objection raised on scriptural grounds to women being ordained. According to the New Testament, all believers, without exception, are ordained by God to do ministry on the basis of their spiritual gifts. 10. The Challenge Cite a biblical text according to which the differences between manhood and womanhood warrant hierarchical relations between Christian men and women. The Facts The organization of the Christian community is never described as a gender-based hierarchy in the Scriptures. To the contrary, it is the doctrine of the community of oneness that sets the norm (Matt. 19:4-6; John 17:11, 20-23; Acts 4:32; Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-14; Eph. 4:4-6; etc.). The practical implementation of this oneness is summarized in Galatians 3:28: racial distinctions (Jew/Greek), class distinctions (slave/free), and the gender distinction (male/female) are declared to have become irrelevant to the functioning of Christian communities. The compelling mandate for this radical restructuring of community is given as: “for you are all one in Christ.” Proponents of female subordination often insist that this oneness, which transcends race, class and gender differences, is limited to the inclusion of new believers in the community through justification and baptism (Gal. 3:24-27, 28; 1 Cor. 12:13). However, Scripture prohibits limiting the principle of nondiscrimination taught throughout the New Testament merely to entrance of converts into the community. The New Testament emphatically declares that the same oneness, which transcends differences of race, class and gender as a condition for entering the church, is also the driving force that energizes the constituency of the local church into the performance of its ministries. This oneness pertains to the functional life of the body (Rom. 12:4-5). The same oneness sustains the corporate use of all the spiritual gifts invested in it by the Spirit for the performance of the ministries of the local body (1 Cor. 12:11-12; Eph. 4:4-8, 11). Oneness is always defined in the New Testament as the basis for participation of all in the ministries of the local church. Oneness and ministry are inseparably linked in the biblical text. Therefore, the declaration according to which there is no male or female because we are all one in Christ is a ringing mandate for all to participate in church ministry functions without raising the gender difference as grounds for discrimination. The Scripture absolutely forbids racial, class and gender discrimination by reason of the oneness of the church as a body. This oneness is consistently defined in the New Testament as full participation of the total constituency in the ministries of the church. This and other teachings of Scripture rule out genderbased hierarchy as a structure for biblical oneness.

© 2009 Christians for Biblical Equality - All rights reserved. Both articles downloaded from www.cbeinternational.org

The Cultural Context of Ephesians 5:18–6:9
Is there a divinely ordained hierarchy in the life of the church and home that is based on gender alone?
GORDON D. FEE
BEGIN THIS DISCOURSE WITH A DISCLAIMER, SINCE THE TITLE SUGGESTS FAR MORE THAN ONE CAN DELIV-

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er in a limited amount of space. It suggests far more knowledge about this topic than I actually have—indeed, it is safe to say that there is much more that we don’t know about these things than we actually do. What I hope to do is to offer a few probings into the cultural background of this passage—which has become such a crux for people on both sides of the issue of whether there is a divinely ordained hierarchy in the life of the church and home, based on gender alone. I. Preliminary matters

I press this point because these house rules grow directly out of the situation that caused Paul to write these There are some preliminary matters that are important for letters in the first place: the return of Onesimus to Phileour understanding of the passage itself. mon, and the strange doctrines that are being spread 1. Some assumptions about Ephesians itself and the role of among the Colossian Christians as reported to him by this passage in this letter. Contrary to what is probably the Epaphras. majority opinion in current New Testament scholarship, I 2. Some observations. Before turning our attention to think the Ephesian letter is by Paul. Furthermore, I think some words about culture, I want to make a few further the letter has to be kept in its historical context as a com- observations that are important for understanding this panion letter with Colossians and Philemon. passage in the larger context of Ephesians. The letter was probably not Note first that verse 18 is the written specifically to the church swing verse in a passage that bein Ephesus—some early manuMost of the earliest churches gins in 5:1–2—key not only for scripts lack a name in 1:1; in 1:15 walking as children of light (vv. met in households, and the Paul speaks about only having 2–17), but also especially for heard about their faith, and there various households themselves, everything that follows. This is are no personal words whatsoev- therefore, served as the primary made certain by the fact that er. It may have been either the nuclei of the body of Christ in when Paul addresses husbands letter to Laodicea that ended up in verse 25, he deliberately echany given location. in Ephesus, or—more likely, in oes the language of verse 2: my opinion—this was a circular “Christ loved us and gave him letter to the many churches in the province of Asia that self up for us” (v. 2). sprang out of what he had to say to the Colossians. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it” (v. 25). What is important for our purposes is the letter’s clear Moreover, you have probably heard at some point that association with Colossians and, therefore, with Phile- Ephesians is full of long sentences. Indeed it is, and here mon. One of the unfortunate things that happened in the is an especially long one: the sentence that begins in verse organizing of the Christian canon was the separation of 18 does not end until verse 23. Now all English translaPhilemon from Colossians, for both letters would have tions try to help the reader out of the morass by breaking been read together in Philemon’s house church, with both this into smaller sentences; however, in so doing the modPhilemon and Onesimus present. The point, of course, is ern reader can miss a lot. that the so-called house rules that occur only in Colosa. In Greek the sentence has a single subject and verb, sians and Ephesians almost certainly spring from the cir- which comes in the form of an imperative: “You [the cumstances that brought Onesimus back to Philemon’s readers] be filled with the Spirit”; this is then followed by household and thus back to his house church. a string of modifying participles: All of this is to say that, in the Colossian expression of • speaking to each other in psalms, hymns, and so on; our text (3:18–4:1), you could substitute personal names • singing a n d h y m n i n g t h e L o r d ( C h r i s t ) f r o m t h e for the generic terms there. Thus: “Apphia, submit to h e a r t ; Philemon, as is fitting in the Lord. Philemon, love Apphia • thanking our God and Father always for all things and do not be harsh with her. Onesimus, obey your earth- through Jesus Christ; ly master, Philemon, in everything; and do it, not only • submitting to one another in the fear of Christ, folwhen his eye is on you. . . . Philemon, provide your slaves lowed by words to the wives with respect to their hus[including Onesimus] with what is right and fair, because bands. you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” b. The significance of this is twofold: PRISCILLA PAPERS/Wnter 2002: 16:1 3

Ephesians 5:18–6:9

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Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 2 5 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, people have never hated their own bodies, but feed and care for them, just as Christ does the church—30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one

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flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

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Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your chidren; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. 5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one ofyouforwhatevergoodyoudo, whether you are slave or free. 9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him.
2 —New International Version, Inclusive Language Edition, published in Great Britain by Hodder &Stoughton (1996 edition)

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First, the words to wives and husbands are to be • So also in the case of “married” slaves within the understood as totally dependent on their being filled with household (a true marriage, even though not recognized the Spirit. That is, all the words by Roman law); the “head” of in 5:22–6:9 presuppose a housethe wife in this case was not her hold of believers who are continThe world presupposed by our husband but the householder. ually being filled with the Spirit • Among the larger masses of text is a world so radically of God. people, moreover, very few of different from ours culturally these relationships pertain at all Second, and especially important for us: In Paul’s mind there that it is difficult for us even or, as in the case of artisans like is the closest kind of link bePriscilla and Aquila, there is a to imagine our way back tween Christian worship and the very clear sense of partnership into that setting. Christian household. This is in the marriage as in the busialmost certainly because the forness itself. mer (worship) took place primarily in the latter (the Here are two final observations about the passage in household). The point is that most of the earliest churches general that begin to move us toward some cultural matmet in households, and the various households them- ters themselves. Notice, first, that in terms of words used, selves, therefore, served as the primary nuclei of the body Paul’s obvious greater concern in the first relationship is of Christ (or God’s household) in any given location. with the husband/householder. There are four times as 3. A final, significant observation about the passage as a many words to him as there are to the wife. In the other whole. Notice that three relationships are assumed: two relationships, however, the number of words goes in wives and husbands, the opposite direction—two to one. This in itself suggests children and parents, that the crucial matter for Paul is with what Christ has slaves and masters. done to the first relationship. But notice also that in each case the second party in the Second, it is important to note that in each case the first relationship is usually the same person: husband = father person addressed is the vulnerable and powerless one in = master. This would not always be the case, of course, the relationship. In the case of wives and slaves, they are since the assumption of the passage is very decidedly that to rethink their status in terms of their serving Christ, as of the Roman villa; that is, the household of the elite, or they relate to the male head of the household. And note, privileged. finally, that the male householder is not told to take his • The model thus has little to do with villas where proper role as leader of the household—that was in fact women served as heads of households, in which case the the assumed cultural reality that could so easily be first relationship does not pertain at all, and the second abused. Rather, he is told to model the character of Christ probably less so (although widows may well have had in his relationships to his wife and slaves. children in the household). What kind of a world is this into which Paul is speak4 PRISCILLA PAPERS/Winter 2002: 16:1

ing, as he leaves the structures intact, but radically alters the relationships in terms of living cruciform?

II. Altered relationships
1. Culture in general: some assumptions. This word culture is sometimes used in a way that suggests that there is an “oughtness” to culture. But that is an illusion. Culture simply is; it is not a matter of “should be.” Culture is what defines us; we do not define it, we simply try our best to describe it. Indeed, until recent times it was not even a subject of discussion, because it was simply assumed. But this is also our difficulty, because with regard to the first-century household, we must ferret out from a variety of legal and literary remains how people viewed the familia—which included the entire household, including slaves. 2. The Greco-Roman world. What we do know—and this has now been put into wonderfully convenient form by David deSilva in his recent book Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity (InterVarsity, 2000)—is that three basic assumptions defined the cultural milieu of the Greco-Roman world: Honor/shame; patronage; and kinship. The concept of honor and shame ruled everything; honor, or its opposite, disgrace, was regularly the basis for most moral appeals. A common sense as to what was honorable or shameful was the fabric that held Greco-Roman culture together. Patronage refers to the mutual relationship that existed

between unequals, in which each was understood to benefit the other. This is the cultural reality that most Americans in particular find utterly distasteful. We get ahead on the strength of our own ingenuities. We get what we want or need by buying and selling, and those who get ahead by buying favors are scorned. But such a worldview was simply nonexistent in the time of Paul. Indeed, the Greco-Roman worldview was quite the opposite: it was predicated on the reality of a world that was bottom-heavy; where the top few percent were the elite or privileged, and where the rest of humankind was rather totally dependent on being in good standing with a patron. Seneca, in fact, said that the giving and receiving of favors was the “practice that constitutes the chief bond of human society.” Such a worldview is especially in place when you read Philemon, where Philemon was both Paul’s patron and friend. Because he was Paul’s patron, Paul asks for the privilege of hospitality; but because he was a friend, he presumes upon the reciprocity of such friendship to intercede for the life of Onesimus (since, in another sense, Philemon owed his life to Paul). Kinship comes out of patronage, in the sense that to survive people needed to be in some kind of relationship with others, especially within a “family.” But this is also one of the difficulties we face when we come to the “house rules” in Ephesians, because it assumes a privileged household, and by the time of Paul, especially in the larger cities (Rome, Ephesus, Corinth), the majority of people would not have been attached to a household, but they would have lived in the large insulae (apartments), or in their own form of slums, including street people. That is the world, then, that is presupposed by our text. It is a world predicated on honor/shame, patronage, and kinship, a world so radically different from ours culturally that it is difficult for us even to imagine our way back into their setting. But what interests us here is how these cultural realities played out in the Greco-Roman household.

III. Greco-Roman households
Let us examine two drawings. Figure 1 is a representation of the typical insula. Far more people lived this way than in the household assumed by Paul in this passage. This is a typical insula, based on the ruins of Ostia, the ancient seaport of Rome. Because its harbor silted up, the city was simply abandoned; and although most of its marble and other important movable materials were carted off over the centuries, the ruins are especially well preserved. This insula (an apartment house in this case) would also most likely be the pattern for the PRISCILLA PAPERS/Wnter 2002: 16:1 5

Ground floor Figure 1. A typical insula. Key: 1. shop; 2. lightwell; 3. well; 4. latrine; 5. balcony.

Figure 2. A typical domus. Key: 1. fauces; 2. shop; 3. atrium; 4. impluvium; 5. cubiculum; 6. tablinum; 7. andron; 8. peristyle; 9. triclinium; 10. oecus.

home of artisans like Priscilla and Aquila, where the living and gathering of the church would be upstairs while the ground floor rooms that opened onto the street were shops. Such people usually did not have slaves, but rather servants or hired workers. And even though such households would often be the location of a “church that met in someone’s household,” this is not the basic pattern assumed in Ephesians 5—which, as noted above, is probably related to the fact that Paul has just been writing to Philemon of Colossae and to the church that meets in his house. Such a household would look more like the drawing in figure 2. Here is the more typical domus, in which the privileged few—people like Philemon of Colossae or Stephanas and Gaius of Corinth—lived. This is clearly the kind of household presupposed by Paul in this passage. So we shall begin with the household itself, which assumes this kind of dwelling and which usually had a large number of people attached to it.

• The average age of a man when he married was 30, and a woman’s age was less than 18; she thus entered his household as a teenager, whom he had also to educate in the ways of his household. • The reason for marriage was not “love” in our usual sense, but to bear legitimate children, to keep the family line going; failure to bear children, especially sons, was often a cause for divorce. • Most men, although not all, were promiscuous:
Mistresses we keep for the sake of pleasure, concubines for the daily care of the body, but wives to bear us legitimate children. (Demosthenes)

• Some wives, therefore, were promiscuous as well (although they always had to be more discreet, because their act would be considered infidelity, which was a matter of shame). 3. In this kind of household, the idea that men and women might be equal partners in marriage simply did not exist. Evidence for this can be seen in meals, which in all cultures serve as the great equalizer. In the Greek world, a woman scarcely ever joined her husband and his friends at meals; if she did, she did not recline at table (only the courtesans did that), but she sat on a bench at the end. And she was expected to leave after eating, when the conversation took a more public turn. difficult for any

1. The basic sociological model here is clearly that of patronage; it was a mutual relationship between unequals in which each benefited the other. There are several aspects to this: a. By law, the man, the paterfamilia, was the master of his household (thus the patron). Although he did not necessarily exercise it in a hurtful way, under Roman law his rule was absolute, in the sense that It is especially none of the others in the houseof us even to imagine our way 4. Slaves, of course, did all the work, hold had legal means to redress back into that Greco-Roman both menial and clerical, includany grievances. b. Usually, but not always, the culture, let alone to have ing tutoring the children (they paterfamilia required the housecouldn’t have imagined a society any sense of feeling for it. hold to serve his gods, since the without slaves). Slavery was not gods were looked upon as based on race, but initially on responsible for “order,” for causing and maintaining conquest in war, and eventually on economic need. things the way they are. Nonetheless, slaves had absolutely no rights before the c. Such a household, unlike our understanding of law, evidenced by the fact that they could not even home, was not a place of consumption, but of production. marry. It was, therefore, again in sharp contrast to our culture, not thought of as a private haven (a refuge to return to 5. Finally, we return to the matter of religion. It is precisely after a day “out there”); rather, the Greco-Roman house- because religion was regularly practiced in a household holdwasalmostalwayssemi-public (especially theatrium). that, when such a householder became a follower of d. The householder and a few higher-level slaves had Christ, his familia would also as a matter of course follow the only public roles. Here, for example, is the ideal about Christ. Thus the familia (a Latin term for which we have woman’s place found in Philo of Alexandria: no exact equivalent), which consisted both of blood relatives and all those attached to the household, both slave Market-places and council-halls and law-courts and gathand freedperson, automatically became the nucleus/locus erings and meetings where a large number of people are of the earliest Christian communities. And because there assembled, and open-air with full scope for discussion was already a semi-public aspect to the “home,” it also and action—all these are suitable to men both in war and then became a place where many from outside the housepeace. The women are best suited to the indoor life which never strays from the house, within which the middle hold would come and join in the worship—thereby creatdoor is taken by the maidens as their boundary, and the ing a new kind of kinship, where Christ was now the new outer door by those who have reached full womanhood. paterfamilia. One final important note here. When such a house2. What it meant for a woman to enter such a household as a holder became a follower of Christ, it was also invariably wife. We know from a large number of census lists from for him and his household a matter of shame—because he Egypt that: had chosen as his household religion to be a follower of a 6 PRISCILLA PAPERS/Winter 2002: 16:1

rights had finally almost totally superseded that of the common good. But the Enlightenment alone did not create the structural changes in our understanding of home and family. After all, look at the British manor house, with its “enlightened” autocrat, which has taken such a beating in a whole series of movies in the past decade. No, it took the Industrial Revolution to really turn things on its head. It did so by turning both men and women outside the home into the marketplace. Just one statistic tells us how radically American culture changed during the past century. In 1885, it is estimated that 88 percent of all consumer goods were produced in the IV. The household of God home for the household. One generation later, in 1915, As we move toward looking at the now-Christian house- that was totally reversed—over 85 percent of all conhold as God’s household, I want to point out some of the sumer goods were now produced outside the home. The difficulties we have in reading this text, beginning with eventual effects of this one reality alone brought staggerone of its more common abuses: using it to tell modern ing changes to our culture, including especially all the husbands that they should assume their proper role as new opportunities that women began to enjoy, including: head of their wives. Since the modern household looks • equal opportunities for education, almost nothing like the Greco-Roman household, this • the (nearly unheard of) right for women to vote, issue must be given a new cultural setting. The modern • and, eventually, the right to serve in almost every application is almost always put in terms of: “When you way in the public domain. reach an impasse in decision-making, who has the But it also resulted in our homes being thought of as authority to make the final choice?” havens of refuge from the world out there and, until I don’t know whether I hear Paul laughing or crying recently, as the place for the nuclear family to exist—a when that utterly modern readnearly sacred concept in Westing is superimposed on this ern culture that was totally fortext—as though that were actualeign to Paul’s world. What makes our text so ly somehow derivable from the The fact that cultural radically countercultural lies in assumptions areour different passage itself. And in any case, so Paul’s urging those who are what would that look like for a from theirs makes it difficult for couple of normally strong people filled with the Spirit and us even to imagine how absolike my wife, Maudine, and me, worship Christ as Lord to have lutely radical and earth-shatterwho are both second children, ing the Christian gospel soundtotally transformed relation- ed in their ears. Take especially neither of whom likes to make ships within the household. decisions at all! In June we celePaul’s conclusion to his argubrated our forty-fifth anniverment with the Galatians over sary, and I would say that we have never had such a deci- true ecclesiology, having to do with Jew and Gentile as sion-making stalemate in all these years. To be sure, members together in the one household of God. “In we’ve had our moments—but never on this issue. Of Christ,” he says, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither course, we don’t get anything done, either! slave nor free, neither male nor female; for you are all one But let me quickly add that it is especially difficult for in Christ.” any of us even to imagine our way back into that GrecoBut such a revolutionary statement was not intended Roman culture, let alone to have any sense of feeling for to abolish the structures, which were held in place by it. Indeed, in our context I almost always have a strong Roman law. Rather, it was intended forever to do away sense of need here to apologize to the singles—which in with the significance attached to such structural differitself is evidence of how different from them we really are ences, which pitted one group of human beings against culturally. So let’s say some things about ourselves and another. And the most radical thing of all was that such why we have such difficulty imagining that world. people—Jew and Gentile, slave and free, men and womWe are heirs of a culture in which two major events in en—shared a common meal together, itself a cause for the past 300 years have radically altered Western culture cultural shame, and thus celebrated their Lord’s death forever, and which turned the basically patronal culture until he was to come again—which, as 1 Corinthians that preceded it completely on its head—namely, the so- 11:17–34 makes clear, created considerable tension for the called Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. traditional householder. No wonder the world had such The Enlightenment, with its emphasis on the individ- difficulty with these early Christians, and why they were ual, created a culture in which individual rights came to considered to be “haters of humanity,” because they so be regarded as the highest good. So much is this so that willingly broke the rules—not by tearing down the strucby the late twentieth century the concept of individual tures, but by making them ultimately irrelevant! Such PRISCILLA PAPERS/Winter 2002: 16:1 7

Jewish messianic figure who had died by crucifixion, which was one of the ultimate expressions of shame in that culture. What Paul does not do—indeed, it would never have occurred to him—is to add shame to shame by dismantling the structure of the household. That was simply in place. What he did do was in some ways far more radical: he applied the gospel to this context. What interests us, returning to our text, is how a new kinship based on the household’s common relationship to Christ as “head” of his body, the new household of God, affected all of these various relationships.

people are greatly to be feared as the worst of all possible anarchists. So what in the end is it that makes our present text so radically countercultural? What Paul obviously did not do was to demolish the structures and create new ones. What was radical lay in his urging those who are filled with the Spirit and worship Christ as Lord to have totally transformed relationships within the household Thus wives and slaves, respectively, are to continue to submit and obey but now to do so as those who are thereby serving the Lord. And that changes things. But the more radical change is for the male householder, whose model is Christ and his love for the church. Christ is thus the “savior of the body” (a remarkable phrase indeed). In this case, however, Paul is not emphasizing salvation from sin (although that, too, of course is finally included). Rather, “savior” is the most common designation for the emperor. Used of God in the Old Testament (as God my Savior), it most often carries its more common sense of provider and protector (cf. 4:15–16). Note then the only thing that is said to the householder in terms of his relationship to his wife. Three times—at the beginning (v. 25), in the middle (v. 28), and at the end (v. 33)—Paul says the one truly radical thing: “Love your wife.” That does not refer to either romance or sex, but to him giving his life in loving service to her. And note that there is regular emphasis on “his own wife.” The model is Christ’s love for the church; look at how Paul expresses that. The imagery is that of a man taking a bride; Paul provides this with a marvelous echoing of Old Testament language from Ezekiel 16, where God betroths Israel, the naked and orphaned teenager, and washes her and dresses her in the finest of clothes. Thus Paul now images the husband as treating his wife as just such a bride, adorned and glorious to behold. It is assumed that he will continue to provide leadership to the household, but his role will be radically transformed into one of caring for the people within the household for their own sakes, not having them around to serve his own self-interests. This is also why the Christian household, which is always a kind of nucleus of the larger Christian community, should always be understood as the first place where all the other imperatives are to find their first place of existence. The household, which was also the church, was the place where Christian life had to be put into practice.

We would do well here to go back and reread chapter 5 in light of this reality. Here is the more abbreviated version in the letter that is the companion to this one, excerpted from the full text of Colossians 3:12–4:1:
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

This, I would urge, is how these texts finally apply to us and to our homes. In the end, the structures are immaterial since they are predicated altogether on cultural givens that are simply not ours. Indeed, in light of this text, the structures are ultimately irrelevant, except that some structure must be in place or the household will fall apart. But these depend largely on the people involved, their own giftings, personalities, and how they relate to each other. But whatever the structure, at issue is that we live Christlike in our relationships with one another in our homes.
God calls us to Peace, shalom to be filled with the Spirit, and thus submitting ourselves to one another in reverence to Christ to love with Christ’s love, by self-sacrificial giving of ourselves.

If we do that, the matter of structures will pale into insignificance. s
Gordon Fee is professor of New Testament at Regemt College in Vancouver, BC, Canada. He has written numerous books and commentaries, including Listening to the Spirit in the Text (Eerdmans, 2000). He taught previously at Wheaton College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. This article was first presented at CBE’s international conference in Dallas last June and has been edited for publication. The drawings on page 9 are reproduced from Families in the New Testament World; © 1997 Carolyn Osiek and David L. Balch. Used by permission of Westminster John Knox Press.

News of Interest
A New York Times news story late last summer reported the following:
After 26 years of debate, amendments, delays and parliamentary maneuvering, the Brazilian Congress [has] approved a legal code that for the first time in the country’s history makes women equal to men in the eyes of the law. . . . As feminist groups see it, though, the most significant advance is the abolition of the traditional concept of “paternal power,” which tives fathers unrestricted legal rights to make all decisions on behalf of their families. Under the new legislation, they will have to divide that authorit with their wives, and single mothers will be regarded as heads of households. . . . [According to] Solange Bentes Jurema, president of the National Council for Women’s Rights, one of the country’s leading feminist organizations, “The family is no longer an institution that is the property of the man, but a union in which all members have responsibilities and duties.” . . . “These are important advances,” said Jacqueline Pitanguy, a sociologist and women’s rights advocate. “But we also have to ask: What took so long?”

8

PRISCILLA PAPERS/Winter 2002: 16:1

Thoughts on Headship and Authority
Ready for a shocker?
The idea that the man is the head of the family is never stated in scripture. That he is the head (Greek: kephale) of the wife, is stated. But there is much debate over whether this kind of “head” is of the leader variety, since the word carries the notion of being source, like a fountain head or river head. There is another Greek word for head (arche) that more clearly means “leader” or “ruler.” Paul appears to have used the word kephale as a way to rebuff men who thought of themselves as arche-heads. He goes on to show how a kephale-head is like the loving and serving Christ, instead of being like a ruler or authoritarian. The Bible never uses arche in reference to the husband-wife relationship. But it does use the word “partner”! And full partnership of course means full mutuality. Once we shelve the debate over "headship" in marriage, we find that the only passage in the Bible that speaks explicitly of "authority" (Greek: exousia) in marriage, is in 1 Corinthians 7:4: "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does." (NAS) Paul goes on to say: "Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time..." (v. 5, NIV) In other words, the authority and submission taught in this passage are both mutual! It seems odd, if Paul truly believed in the "husband leads/wife submits" model, that he would make an exception in the area of sexual compliance. Sex is a pretty fundamental component of marriage, is the means by which two become one flesh, and can serve as a metonym for the whole marriage relationship. So please understand me, I have no objection to those who teach that women are to submit to their husbands. What I find flawed is that they infer this means men are exempt from mutual submission and that only the male partner has a leadership part to play in the marriage partnership. True egalitarians, of which I am one, are not against submission. We object to it being half missing! We want more submission, not less. The complementarian (advocate of gender hierarchy), on the other hand, wants to shirk the most distinctive aspect of Christ's example: kenosis—the act by which Christ emptied himself and became a servant (Phil 2:7).

by Dave Leigh
When it comes to the home, the church, and society, the Bible never suggests that we restrict leadership and therefore have less of it. Rather, it wants to unleash God's people as leaders and calls everyone (male, female, Jew, gentile, slave and free) to exercise more leadership! Specifically Yahweh desires ALL whom he gifts and calls into leadership to lead with all their hearts, mind, soul and strength-but with Jesus as their prototype. The gifts and callings of God show no respect of persons or gender. In my many readings of the Bible I have never seen a single passage where an individual was turned away from a leadership role or position on the basis of gender. Rather, the Bible presents a host of women leaders who rise up—not as exceptions but as examples—to be followed and imitated! The claim that a husband is "head" (kephale) of the wife is a claim also made of God in relation to Christ, indicating Christ's unity and equality with the Godhead. Likewise, it says Christ is the head of every person, thus indicting his full humanity and unity with us. Nowhere is the term "arche" used in gender relationships. And nowhere is Christ hindered from leading just because God is his "kephale." To suggest that a man's leadership in the family means a woman cannot also lead in the family, church or community suggests the following: 1. That she is not a full partner with her husband in family leadership. But this is false (Mal 2:14 NIV; 1Pe 3:7 NLT). 2. That she cannot lead her husband in areas where she is especially gifted or Spirit led. But this is false (Ro 12:6-13). 3. That his leadership impedes his wife from fully serving God to the fullest of her potential using the gifts God has given her. And once this again, this too is not only false but a contradiction of the husband's leadership. For true leaders do not impede others from rising to their callings; they equip and empower them! Those who oppose the full and uninhibited ministries and leadership of women advocate an unbiblical and unnecessary obstacle to the spread of the gospel, the work of the church, and the advancement of the Kingdom of God. This is not only wrong, it creates the possibility that such advocates may inadvertently find themselves cooperating with the enemies of the gospel and opposing its progress.

Rather, may it be as Psalm 68:11 says: "The Lord gives the word [of power]; the women who bear and publish [the news] are a great host" (Amplified). It strikes me as interesting lately that the debate over mutual submission focuses so much on Ephesians 5 but rushes right past Ephesians 1 and 2. There we see God in Christ raising up his bride to sit with him in the heavenlies, "far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given" (cf 1:21-22 & 2:6). I think if every Christian husband sought to imitate this there might be less need to distinguish ourselves as complementarians or egalitarians. To view Ephesisan 5 in context, we cannot forget that Ephesians is a book of unities and of upside-down hierarchies. Jews and Gentiles become "one new man" in Christ, resulting in their equality in the Kingdom. Christ Jesus becomes our peace, breaking down the wall between us and God, as well as between us and each other. In fact, he does this to such a degree that we sit with him and reign with him in the heavenlies (cf 2Tm 2:12, Re 20:6, 1Co 6:3).

The social hierarchy of the Ephesian people is set on its head in chapters 5 and 6, with both high and low being told to imitate Christ in regards to each other. Masters and slaves become brothers. Father's must consider the limits of their children and respect them. Husbands must imitate the one who washed his disciples' feet. If we read this epistle as a whole, then we see that imitating Christ involves not just chapters 5 and 6, but also chapter 2. Rather than trying to keep gender hierarchy in marriage and the church, let Christian men elevate and empower their brides as Christ does his, and let both spouses "treat each other as more important than themselves" (Phil 2:3). In the final analysis, this does not eliminate submission; it multiplies it with mutual Christlikeness. But it also produces an empowerment mentality that encourages ministry and service--based on giftedness, not on gender, ethnicity, or social conventions. It promotes leadership in the home, church, and everywhere. But it does so on the proper basis: gifts and callings, not gender or hierarchy.
© Copyright 2009 – David R. Leigh. All rights reserved. Downloaded from www.TheJesusAgenda.net

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