Biblical Submission in Marriage

  Yielding to [being supportive of] one another in the fear of God  Wives yield to [be supportive of] your own husbands [1]

Ephesians 5:21-22

[1] Dr. Sue Hyatt writes that the word “submit” should have been translated as “support,” “In the context of biblical relationships between men and women, the best meaning of hypotasso is “to identify with or support.”

This writer agrees. Within biblical Christianity no military hierarchies can be found. Secular, military-like, applications of the Greek word, hypotasso, have no place in the living dynamics of the love relationship between our Creator and his people nor should it between co-workers in Christ or between husbands and wives. 

It is a grave error to assign a biblical definition of “compliance” to the word hypotasso in New Testament non-military relationships. All believers are commanded to hypotasso one another. We see this in Ephesians 5:21 and 1 Peter 5:5 (the latter is found in all Koine Greek texts, over 5000 of which still exist today). In biblical usage, the word hypotasso is not hierarchical. It has nothing to do with being subordinate to, secondary to, or subject to. It must be applied in the sense of preferring one another over ourselves.    

Translator supplements add to the impression that the word is hierarchical when it is not. In Ephesians chapter five, see verses :21-22, where the word, “yourselves” (as in submit yourselves) is an English translator supplement that casts a hierarchical shadow over the passage, when there is no underlying Greek to support it.

As previously stated translating hypotasso as the word “submit” or the phrase “be subject to” gives rise to gender-biased-English-translation-theology, bluntly put…false doctrine. The word “yourselves” is not found in verses :21-22. There is no corresponding Greek to support it.

Semantics matter. Language influences opinion. The translator supplements of “yourselves” [in verses :21-22] add a non-existent emphatic and hierarchical flavor to the passage. It is an incorrect translation. As there is no corresponding Greek to justify the translator supplements of the emphatic “yourselves” in either verse, the words should be eliminated.

“Yielding one to another (being supportive one of the other) in the fear of God” is sufficient for understanding. The word, hypotasso, means the same for both husbands and wives. Hypotasso is used in 1 Peter 5:5 (Koine Greek/Received Text), where all believers are commanded to yield to and be supportive of one another. Given that all believers are commanded to prefer others before themselves, the Greek word, hypotasso, when applied to non-military relationships (marriage is certainly a non-military relationship), should not be translated using hierarchical terms such as “submit” or “be subject to.”

This is an excerpt from The Hungry Hearts Bible Commentary edited by this author.

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