Is There a Head of the House in the Home? Reflections on Ephesians 5 -- By: James R. Beck

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 02:4 (Fall 1988)
Article: Is There a Head of the House in the Home? Reflections on Ephesians 5
Author: James R. Beck

Is There a Head of the House in the Home?
Reflections on Ephesians 5

James R. Beck

Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary

Ephesians 5:21-32 (New International Version) 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 Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 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, 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, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, 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 flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Perhaps the most annoying of all dinnertime phone callers are the salespersons who ask, “Is the head of the house at home?” My irritation with the question tempts me to make some unrepeatable statements to the caller, but mostly I try to bow out of the unwanted conversation before the lasagna gets cold. Should I be brave (or foolish) enough to continue the conversation, I probably should reply, “Well, it depends upon what you mean by head.”

The answer to the title question of this paper is similar: “Yes, there is a head of the house in the home, but probably a different kind of head than you have in mind.”

Ephesians 5:15-6:9 is a Haustafel (a table of household duties) and is the central passage for Pauline teaching on Christian marriage. The passage, along with its reduced parallel in Colossians, is well known by persons of all persuasions on the issue of the relationship between wives and husbands. Often used in wedding ceremonies, these verses are home to the traditionalists and to biblical feminists as well. (Unfortunately, secular writers such as Bullough1 see only subordination in this passage.)

Hazards exist for us any time we approach a familiar, well-worn passage of Scripture. The mind and heart can wander down familiar ruts and miss the beauty of sauntering do...

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