Letter I dropped in the mail…
Bible Advocate Press
P.O. Box 3367
Denver, CO 80233
Dear Bible Advocate,
I am writing regarding your April 2019 publication titled “All Authority”, specifically the article titled “The Humble Leadership of Christ” and its claim that Ephesians 5 teaches “mutual submission”.
It is disappointing you are now advocating man’s new opinions instead of the Bible. It is clearly a new opinion since “Love, Honor, and Obey” has only recently been removed from wedding vows. This new opinion borders on “speaking evil of what God has said” or as Titus 2:5 labels it: blaspheming the word of God. What God has said from the beginning is that husbands will rule over their wives.
Mutual submission at face value sounds like a very Christian thing to do. Combine it with phrases like yielding to others, loving and serving them, preferring them above yourself and it helps the concept seem very Christlike, and indeed those phrases are. Unfortunately those phrases are not the definition of the underlying Greek word Hupotasso. God’s words have meaning, and mutual submission is a distortion of the meaning the Word has clearly and repeatedly communicated.
Even in modern dictionaries submission is defined as “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person”. Webster’s 1828 adds “Obedience; compliance with the commands or laws of a superior.” A lexicon for the underlying Greek word Hupotasso says it is “to arrange under, to subordinate; to subject, put in subjection; to subject one’s self, obey; to submit to one’s control; to yield to one’s admonition or advice; to obey, be subject.” Bible translators used phrases such as “be subject, be in subjection, submit, obey, be obedient, be in obedience”, and “put under”.
Despite all their sincerity and enthusiasm theology students still end up denying what the whole of Scripture plainly teaches when they emphasize how verses 21 and 22 in Ephesians 5 share the verb Hupotasso in the original text and try to find obscure meaning in that fact. Unfortunately they miss the obvious point that sharing a verb does not change the meaning at all. “People, obey the government, and servants your masters” means just the same thing as if there were two verbs.
Other valid translation choices for submission such as “mutual obedience” or “mutual subjection” make it obvious that such a concept is illogical and impossible. Can a citizen obey the police and the police obey the citizen? Can a king be subject to his subjects? Obfuscating the meaning of submission warps the text so it seems to say something different than what the Writer intended.
If mutual obedience were meant to be taken as doctrine then Paul surely would not minimize it with only five words, even sharing the main verb with the following verse. Surely he would expound on it and include it in one of the various examples he gave. Perhaps it is a difficult phrase to translate. 1 Peter 5:5 has the same phrase “all of you be subject one to another” tagged onto the directive to obey elders, but that phrase only appears in the KJV and derivatives; no other translation has it. And it is the very same Greek word “Allelon” in both verses that apparently gives the translators trouble, “Allelon” being most often translated “one another” but sometimes “themselves” or “yourselves”. Perhaps the verse should have simply read something like “Y’all wives…”
Or perhaps Paul intended “Submitting yourselves one to another” to be a preface to the three examples of authorities established by God that he was going to write about next. He first says for wives to obey, then gives some instructions for husbands. He next says for children to obey, then gives instructions to fathers. Lastly he says for servants to obey, then gives instructions for masters. Absent the preface in Colossians 3-4 he follows the same exact pattern with wives obey, husbands love, children obey, fathers provoke not, servants obey, and masters be just. In his epistle to Titus he lists wives being obedient to their own husbands, servants to masters, and citizens to governments. Peter in his first epistle lists citizens obeying governments, servants obeying masters, wives obeying husbands, and the younger obeying the elders.
In all these lists of various authorities, masters are never told to obey their servants, parents are never told to obey their children, government is never told to obey its citizens, husbands are never told to obey their wives, and elders are never told to obey their flocks. If mutual obedience was meant to be taken as doctrine we should find examples of the above.
Besides the lists of authorities, Paul says that wives are “commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law” in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and in a similar set of instructions in 1 Timothy 2:11 he says “with all subjection”. Other teachings supporting this authority structure are wives reverencing their husbands (1 Peter 3:2, Ephesians 5:33), headship (1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:23), wives having a meek, quiet, and un-contentious spirit (1 Peter 3:4, Proverbs 19:13, 21:9, 21:19, 27:15), the lawful ability to override a wife’s commitments (Numbers 30:8, 12-13), and of course God declaring that wives would be ruled by their husbands in Genesis 3:16.
Where else in the bible can you find this new concept of mutual obedience? Letting the Bible interpret itself is a basic fundament to proper hermeneutics, otherwise we end up with eisegesis instead of exegesis. I believe the best understanding of “Submitting yourselves one to another” is found most clearly in Hebrews 12:17 which reads “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” Everyone has someone else in authority over them in the various jurisdictions that have been ordained by God.
Those that deny what God has plainly said will cite many examples of evil authorities, but examples of sinful humans should never be a reason to discard what God has given us for our good. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1 NIV) Of course there are the standard exception clauses that apply to any authority stepping outside of their jurisdiction and into the jurisdiction of another authority, for example disobeying a command of God (Acts 5:29).
“Mutual submission” is a man made doctrine aligned with the feminist agenda that undermines what God has said. It has encouraged strife, division, and anarchy which has resulted in countless heartaches, broken families, divorces, and fatherless homes. Rebellion is a foundational problem in marriages, churches, culture, and the whole human race.