Equality, Hierarchy, Marriage, and Ephesians 5:22-33

Is it possible to have equality and hierarchy in marriage? The debate that goes on about Eph 5:22-33 rests on hierarchy vs. equality. Complementarians view hierarchy as the biblical understanding for marriage in Eph 5:22-33. Egalitarians view equality as the biblical interpretation. Could both be right to a certain extent? I have stated it before, it seems that Eph 5:22-33 is a complex matrix of complementarian and egalitarian theology. Ephesians 5:22-33 shows both hierarchy and equality. Is it possible to have both? Yes, it is. Look at a soccer team or a basketball team. There is a hierarchy–coach(s), captain(s), player(s). Clearly, not everyone on the team has the same authority, and therefore they are not all equals. Yet, there is equality. If the team wins the championship, everyone on the team wins the same reward. Therefore, we can have hierarchy and equality together. How does this apply to marriage? Perhaps there is a pattern of authority for husbands and wives to follow according to Eph 5:22-33, but at the same time, both are equal members of the body of Christ. Marriage is between two equals in this sense, but it also entails a hierarchical structure. The question is, how will this hierarchy work itself out in the marriage? Will the husband be inconsiderate in decision making, if indeed he is the one making decisions? Will the wife submit to her husband and respect him? Or vice versa? These questions are to be answered at a different time. For now, it is enough to point out that both hierarchy and equality are evident in Eph 5:22-33.


6 thoughts on “Equality, Hierarchy, Marriage, and Ephesians 5:22-33

  1. Would you be able to say “that both hierarchy and equality are evident” in Eph 6:5-9?

  2. Most certainly. They are equals as believers, and yet the slave is still instructed to obey the master. The instructions both reflect the culture and yet they are counter-cultural. See my next post as well, although with a PhD in Rhetoric Im probably not stating anything you don’t already know. I will eventually get to the “why?” questions, such as this one: why did Paul, if they were equals, command wives to submit to their husbands?

  3. Thanks. So are you reading both Eph 5:22-33 and Eph 6:5-9 as normative for Christians in the cultures of this 21st century? (I’m asking because of your opener in this post, and your other uses of present tense that follow).

  4. Pingback: Ephesians 5:22-33, Complementarian or Egalitarian? « The Letter to the Ephesians

  5. Pingback: Paul, Witness, Empire, and Ephesians 5:22-33 « The Letter to the Ephesians

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