Is The Head Of The House At Home? -- By: Joe E. Trull

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 14:3 (Summer 2000)
Article: Is The Head Of The House At Home?
Author: Joe E. Trull


Is The Head Of The House At Home?

The Way To Build A Christian Home Is For Each Member Of The Family To Work At Surpassing The Other In Love And Voluntary Submission.

Joe E. Trull

Joe E. Trull is on the adjunctive faculties of Logsdon Theological Seminary and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and was recently appointed editor of the journal Christian Ethics Today. In 1998, he was given “early retirement” from his position as professor of Christian Ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he had taught since 1985 (see following interview). From 1965 to 1985 he pastored Baptist churches in Texas and Virginia. He is the author of five books, the most recent being Walking in the Way: An Introduction to Christian Ethics (available through cbe). This article was first published in Christian Ethics Today (February 1997).

The phone rings just as I sit down to dinner. The voice asks, “Is this the head of the house?” Should my answer be brave or honest? I reply, “It depends on what you mean by head.”

The answer to the title question is similar. Yes, there is a head of the house at home, but probably not the one the caller had in mind. For the Christian household, Christ is the true head.

Ephesians 5:21-6:9 is a Hausentafel (a code of household duties) and a central Pauline passage on the Christian home.1 Often quoted in wedding ceremonies, these well-worn verses are sometimes used to support a traditional view of male superiority and female submission in marriage relationships.2 The thesis of this article is that Ephesians 5:21-6:9 upholds a model of mutual submission under the lordship of Christ.

Jewish and Gentile moralists commonly wrote guidelines to govern the behavior of family members. Biblical scholars presume Ephesians 5:21-6:9 was part of catechetical instruction given to new converts in Christian churches along with other teachings (cf. Col. 3:18-4:1; Titus 2:1-10; 1 Peter 2:13-3:7).3 The apostle Paul added a new element in his household codes: the Christian home was to be different from the typical Graeco-Roman family. Every member of the Christian family was to live under the lordship of Christ, and that revolutionized domestic relationships.

Paul’s teachings about the home may have arisen because of the breakdown...

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