The Mystery Of Christ And The Church: Head And Body, “One Flesh” -- By: Andreas J. Köstenberger

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 12:1 (Spring 1991)
Article: The Mystery Of Christ And The Church: Head And Body, “One Flesh”
Author: Andreas J. Köstenberger

The Mystery Of Christ And The Church:
Head And Body, “One Flesh”

Andreas J. Köstenberger


I. Introduction

Eph 5:22–33 has been an important passage in recent debates on headship and submission in marriage.1 An important aspect of this passage that has not received proper attention, however, is the reference to a “great mystery” in Eph 5:32. As the term μυστήριον occurs consistently throughout Ephesians, an understanding of Paul’s use of the term will help in the interpretation of Eph 5:22–33. How is the term μυστήριον used? What does it refer to in the present passage? Is it the “sacrament” of marriage? Is it the typological relationship between marriage and the union of Christ and the church? Or is it the union of Christ and the church itself?

Depending on how one answers these questions, one will come to different understandings of the biblical view of marriage. If one adopts the “sacramental” view, one will see marriage as a relationship which symbolizes, in a “mystical” way, Christ’s relationship with his church. One’s focus will be on the inscrutable, transcendent nature of marriage and its “sacramental” nature in the church.

If one holds to a typological view, one will view marriage according to the way in which its various elements are related to Christ’s union with the church. The following will all be seen as connected by typology, allegory, or some other form of “deeper meaning”: Adam and Christ, Eve and the church, and marriage and Christ’s union with the church. The marriage partners will understand their relationship in the context of these connections and attempt to live out their roles accordingly.

If, however, μυστήριον is taken as referring to Christ and the church, and not directly to marriage, there will still be important implications for the marriage relationship. One will see marriage

in the larger framework of God’s purpose “in Christ”: the restoration of a united body under one head, Jesus Christ. One will view Paul’s use of Gen 2:24 as indicative of God’s purpose to restore marriage to its original design, in analogy to Christ’s union with the church.

II. The Term Μυστηριον

The background of Paul’s u...

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