Ephesians 5:22-33, Complementarian or Egalitarian?

When we read Ephesians 5:22-33, are we to understand a complementarian or egalitarian point of view? By complementarian we mean a God ordained marital hierarchy of authority, and by egalitarian we mean a God ordained equality of authority in marriage. These terms are anachronistic, so do not be fooled into thinking that Paul was a complementarian or an egalitarian. But Paul was a son of the times. Husbands throughout the Roman Empire were considered to be the rulers, masters, and authority figures of the wives. Judaism was no less patriarchal. Therefore, in a way, Paul was a complementarian. However, Paul understood a special change that was made for those who become believers. Slaves and masters become equals as Christians, for example; the hierarchy is lost, so that the church is filled with and comprised of equals. So it is with husbands and wives. In this way, Paul was an egalitarian. When we come to terms with marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33, are we imposing our own understanding of life, marriage, and theology onto this Scripture when we claim that Paul is either complementarian or egalitarian? Furthermore, do we have to choose between these options? Since they are anachronistic, I think not. Rather, we should do our absolute best to keep our presuppositions on the sidelines and do all that we can to allow Ephesians 5:22-33 to speak on its own, to speak for itself, and to be interpreted in light of the context of the passage, its rhetorical intent within the letter, and the argument of the letter as a whole. It seems that if we are successful at this task, then we will find that Ephesians 5:22-33 is a complex matrix of complementarian and egalitarian theology. In fact, it would be best not to use these terms at all. Instead, we should speak of Ephesians 5:22-33 as demonstrating a blend of subordination and equality. After all, the key theme of its immediate context is willful subordination amongst a group of equals.

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