The Subordination Challenge: #4 -- By: Gilbert Bilezikian

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 16:3 (Summer 2002)
Article: The Subordination Challenge: #4
Author: Gilbert Bilezikian

The Subordination Challenge: #4

Proponents Of Female Subordination Are Asked To Prove Their Case From The Bible.

Gilbert Bilezikian

Gilbert Bilezikian is professor emeritus of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College (IL) and cofounder of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL. Among the books of which he is the author are Beyond Sex Roles and Community 101 (see his article on community beginning on p. 3 of this issue).

Challenge #4

Cite a text from the Bible that makes men head over women, or a husband head over his wife.

The challenge above is the fourth of ten being presented here to prompt Christians to grapple with biblical facts rather than accept unquestioningly some traditional assumptions about female roles and, by so doing, blindly follow institutionalized misreadings of Scripture.

The Facts

There is no such statement in the Bible that makes men head over women, or a husband head over his wife.

The text in 1 Corinthians 11:3 is often cited as establishing a top-down hierarchy: God over Christ—Christ over man—man over woman.

However, this biblical text must be radically dismembered and its components reshuffled in order to produce such results. The untouched biblical sequence is totally different, and it does not present a hierarchical structure: Christ, head of man—man, head of woman—God, head of Christ.

The teaching in this text concerns the concept of head as giver of life. In Creation, Christ (as the Word, John 1:3) gave life to man; man to woman (as she was taken from him, Gen. 2:21-23); and in the Incarnation, God gave life to Christ (Luke 1:35). This understanding of “head” as “provider of life” is consistent with the immediate context, which deals with the significance of origination (1 Cor. 11:7-12).

The meaning of head as servant-provider of life in this text is also consistent with the headship passage in Ephesians 5:21-33. There, the church is described as being subject to Christ in the reciprocity of servanthood because Christ as head is also servant to the church as its Savior and as the source of its welfare. Saviorhood in the New Testament is not a lordship role but one of self-sacrifice in radical servanthood.

Likewise, the wife is servant to her husband as she submits to him, because the husband is servant to her in radical headship as he gives himself up for her as Christ did for the church (vv.

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