A Wife’s Submission—Is It God’s Requirement Or Merely Temporary? -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 02:2 (Mar 1997)
Article: A Wife’s Submission—Is It God’s Requirement Or Merely Temporary?
Author: Anonymous

A Wife’s Submission—Is It God’s Requirement Or Merely Temporary?

David Instone Brewer, “Three Weddings And A Divorce,’’ Tyndale Bulletin 47 (1996): 1-25

Reviewed By Alan Hultberg

In recent years it has become increasingly common for scholars to set aside a biblical command by appealing to some alleged ancient background limiting application of this command to the original context. The latest instance of such a practice is one contribution that argues that the New Testament writers urged wifely submission merely as a temporary means to overcome pagan resistance to the gospel message. What follows is a thorough critique of this piece of scholarship.

In a recent article, David Instone Brewer, research librarian at the Tyndale House in Cambridge, England, traces the motif of God’s marriage through the Old and New Testaments. Though not his main point, Brewer touches in a brief excursus (pp. 16–19) on the subject of wives’ submission to their husbands. Considering passages such as Ephesians 5–6, Titus 2–3, and 1 Peter 2–3, he concludes that the submission of wives to husbands, though an ideal in Graeco-Roman society, was neither “part of the new Christian morality’’ nor “perceived as a means of ful- filling the marriage contract.’’ Brewer offers six loosely organized arguments to support this conclusion.

Defensive Authors?

(1) In every instance in the NT where wives are exhorted to submit to their husbands, reasons for their doing so are also given. Therefore, the NT writers may have “felt the same kind of unease and defensiveness about this teaching as many do today.’’ Indeed, the fact that explanations had to be given indicates that “not many were too happy about’’ the common moral expectation of wifely submission. (p. 18)

Brewer here assumes that the only reason an explanation is provided for a command is the unwillingness of its recipients to carry it out. This reasoning leads him to conclude that slaves were generally reluctant to submit to their masters because they are given similar explanations as wives for submission. But by extension, people must not have been “too happy’’ about any other aspect of the moral code, for the commands for husbands to love their wives and for children to obey their parents in Ephesians, as well as the commands about modesty in Titus 2–3 and 1 Peter 2–3, are also accompanied by explanations.

In fact, the vast majority of commands in the New Testament letters are accompanied by reasons for the direc...

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