“Mutual Love and Submission in Marriage: Colossians 3:18–19 and Ephesians 5:21–33” (Ch 11) by I. Howard Marshall -- By: George W. Knight, III

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 10:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: “Mutual Love and Submission in Marriage: Colossians 3:18–19 and Ephesians 5:21–33” (Ch 11) by I. Howard Marshall
Author: George W. Knight, III


“Mutual Love and Submission in Marriage:
Colossians 3:18–19 and Ephesians 5:21–33” (Ch 11)
by I. Howard Marshall

George W. Knight, III

Adjunct Professor of New Testament
Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Taylors, South Carolina

I. Howard Marshall states his objection to following these texts as they are written in this modern world by his title in which “mutual” governs not only “love” but also, and more importantly, the word “submission.” He argues that this “adjustment [of the given text] to changed circumstances is required, as can be seen by a consideration of the material about children and slaves.” This is such a major turning point of his article that he warns against “a concealed hermeneutical trap for readers of this instruction. Since much of it can be seen as still appropriate in the modern world, it is tempting to assume that whatever Paul says here should be applied without significant modification to our situation” (187). For Marshall only the “submission” which Paul asks of the wives cannot be followed as stated, and that everything else in these passages is applicable (cf. the first two full paragraphs on 204).

His first appeal is to Paul’s teaching on “children and parents” (Col 3:20–21). After saying that “[t]he instructions to parents and children appear to be common-sensical and Christian,” he brings three charges against Paul that nullify this assumption long held by readers of the text. The first is that children are addressed as needing to obey their parents “to a more advanced age than would be natural for us” (188). He gives as his substantiation for this assertion the phrase “in the ancient world” and refers in footnote 5 for detail to A. T. Lincoln’s Ephesians commentary.1 In the beginning of that footnote Marshall cites P. T. O’Brien’s Colossians commentary (and refers also to his Ephesians commentary) where he “states that Paul is probably addressing young children rather than those who are already grown up” but asserts that “he offers no evidence for this assumption” (188). But O’Brien does offer evidence when he cites Eph 6:4, which states that these children are to be brought “up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”2 These words imply that the children are under age and are being brought up by their parents. Furthermore, the

apostle has used the word “obey” rather than the word “honor” which is found in his quotation of th...

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