Looking East from Hilltop Farm towards Gladstone South Australia

A Bit in the Bible about Men and Women

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives be subject to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the church. Ephesians 5:21-22

There are lots of technical arguments to be had about the meaning of words like headship and subject. But when we stop to think about it, there is something here that does not add up. In practice, words like those above traditionally meant that the men were equals - subject to each other, and that all the women were subject to - under the control of, their husbands or fathers. This fitted well with the received wisdom that women were the 'weaker sex'.

So on the surface these words in Ephesians, often attributed to the Apostle Paul, are a hard line, anti woman, statement. There is a divine pattern to follow - just as Christ is the head of the church, so a man is the head of his wife.

Yet there is something radical in the words, even today. If the man is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church, then husbands, "love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies." Ephesians 5:25,28

How then can a man be violent to his wife?

And how can he be paternalistic towards, or superior to, his partner. In John's gospel, the high Christology of the New Testament, Jesus says: "I do not call you slaves any longer, but I have called you friends." The Jesus of John moves towards mutuality of relationship and away from headship/hierarchical type relationships. If I seek to be Christian, can I do less as I relate to a woman?

1999


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