Didômi in Ephesians 1:17

Tonight I came across an interesting form of didômi (δίδωμι: “I give”) in Eph 1:17. The form is δώῃ. This word has a variant reading, as seen in Codex Vaticanus (B), 1739, and a few other manuscripts. The variant reading has δῷ. Regardless of which variant is original, I was intrigued by the form of δώῃ. It is clear that what we have here is a subjunctive, as indicated by the ἵνα clause. However, the subjunctive form of δίδωμι in the third person singular active is δῷ, not δώῃ. I looked up the form in the Blue Hymnal, a.k.a. The Basics of Biblical Greek by Mounce. At first glance, this form, δώῃ, looks like a present subjunctive. It has the stem (δο) that appears to be lengthened and it has the third person singular active subjunctive ending (ῃ). But it is not so. If it were a present active subjunctive, there would need to be a reduplication of the first letter of the stem, which it does not have. Indeed, the second aorist subjunctive form of δίδωμι is δῷ. So what is the δώῃ of Eph 1:17? The Blue Hymnal doesn’t acknowledge this form in its appendix, which shows the various forms of the subjunctive for δίδωμι. None of the following commentaries discuss this form: Lincoln’s Ephesians; O’Brien’s The Letter to the Ephesians; Snodgrass’ Ephesians; Hoehner’s Ephesians; and Barth’s Ephesians 1-3. Both BDAG and BDF list δώῃ as a subjunctive form of δίδωμι without any explanation. So what’s going on? Let’s first take a look at δῷ, and then we will look at δῴη, and finally we will look at δώῃ.

1) δῷ: third person singular aorist active subjunctive δίδωμι “he might give”
The stem of δίδωμι is δο. To form the aorist active subjunctive, which will be a second aorist, we simply start with the stem. But the stem vowel can ablaut, and in this case, it lengthens to an omega. From here, we add on the lengthened form of the present active indicative ending for the third person singular, which is ει. This form must combine with the omega. As I learned it, a dead fish (ω) plus a crab (ε) becomes a dead fish (ω). Then the iota becomes a subscript. Thus, the third person singular aorist active subjunctive form of δίδωμι is δῷ.

2) δῴη: third person singular aorist active optative δίδωμι “he may give”
Starting with the stem and its lengthened vowel due to ablaut, δω, δίδωμι can form the aorist active optative by adding an omicron connecting vowel and ιη at the end for the mood formative, which yields δωοιη. The omega and omicron would contract into an omega and the iota would become a subscript, leaving the eta on the end (δῴη). If we remove the diacritical marks, the optative would look like the stripped form of what we find in NA27, δωη. Is NA27 making an editorial decision by putting it in as δώῃ instead of as δῴη? So far, we have come up with a logical reason as to how we can get the δωη form, that is if it is an aorist active optative. But the use of ἵνα indicates subjunctive. According to BDF (§ 369), ἵνα is never used with the optative in the NT. Likewise, it is interesting that BDAG (s.v. ἵνα § 1.d) states that ἵνα is not used with the optative “in our literature,” which implies that in other ancient literature it is used with the optative. It also adds that in Eph 1:17, δώῃ is the correct reading and it is certainly subjunctive. However, we have not seen a valid explanation as to how δώῃ is a valid subjunctive form.

3) δώῃ: third person singular aorist active subjunctive δίδωμι “he might give”
As we have already seen, the aorist active subjunctive would be formed by putting together δο and ει. Again, when it comes to μι verbs, the stem vowel can experience ablaut. In this case, it lengthens from an omicron to an omega. If we take the ει ending in its lengthened form for the subjunctive, we end up with ῃ, which adds with the omega to form δώῃ.

Based on this information, both δῷ and δώῃ are valid forms of δίδωμι. Now, the NA27 has δώῃ as the original text, whereas the likes of B have δῷ. Which one is original? That’s for a different time. At least I now know where the δώῃ form comes from. It is apparently common enough that commentators don’t feel the need to explain it, and yet, for those who are students of the Blue Hymnal, it can be a rather confusing form. Furthermore, it is possible that there could be a ἵνα + optative construction, but it has been ruled out as a valid NT construction; hence, it is not an option for Eph 1:17, at least according to BDF and BDAG. For this reason, it is likely that NA27 uses the subjunctive rather than the optative. Yes, it appears to be an editorial decision to use the diacritical marks to identify δωη as subjunctive, but it is based on the use of ἵνα throughout the rest of the NT that apparently excludes the use of the optative in this construction, and therefore it is an educated and well-grounded editorial decision.

External and Internal Considerations for Ephesians 5:22-33

Concerning Eph 5:22-33, we have considered external factors, such as ancient household codes and the Greco-Roman empire, and canonical issues, such as interpretations from Gen 2:23-24 as well as from Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Philippians. Thus far, we have seen that Eph 5:22-33 is a mixed bag containing elements of both equality and hierarchy. Now we must consider internal factors, which, I believe, take precedence over the external. Internally, we will examine the composition of the letter based on ancient rhetorical practices.

The Letter to the Ephesians is repetitive, which reflects the style of ancient Asiatic rhetoric. The letter is also, at the very least, a eulogy, a berakah, or a blessing. The letter has hortatory material, but it is not the main focus of the letter. It is focused on praising God for what he has done, and his work leads to a moral goal for all Christians. Therefore, the letter falls into the class of epideictic rhetoric as it is a letter of praise that considers in many details God’s work and why he is to be praised while also explaining the moral end of God’s work for Christians.

We will look at the Letter to the Ephesians in several segments, allowing each part in the composition and argument of the letter to inform our interpretation of Eph 5:22-33. We will especially focus on how Eph 5:22-33 functions in the letter.

We will examine the exordium (Eph 1:3-23), narratio (Eph 2:1-3:21), exhortatio (4:1-6:9), and peroratio (Eph 4:1-6:20).

Ephesians 5:22-33 and Paul

We stated that hierarchy was normal for Paul. His culture was such that wives were expected to be ruled by their husbands. It was normal for Paul to command wives to submit to their husbands, then, in Eph 5:22-33. We also stated that it was not meant to be normative. As cultures change, the commands change too, but the commands were based on theological principles that do apply to all cultures. But let’s rethink this conclusion by asking some questions.

Was Paul actually attempting to intentionally fulfill an evangelistic purpose by commanding wives to submit? If so, why does he not explicitly mention this intention?

Was Paul aware of the worldview impressed upon him by his surrounding culture, i.e. that wives should be submissive? If so, why does he accept it without questioning it? If so, how does that correlate with his appeal to Scripture, which, even in Gen 2:24, demonstrates hierarchy (albeit implied)?

It seems to me that Paul may have been attempting to fulfill an evangelistic purpose, but not necessarily. Furthermore, why does he give wives a standard role but a rather counter-cultural role for husbands (love, don’t rule)? We simply cannot demonstrate whether Paul was aware of the cultural values that were impressed upon him. However, he did make an appeal to Scripture. The question is, was Paul allowing his worldview to interpret Gen 2:24? I think not. It is pretty clear, even though it is implicit, that Gen 2:24 upholds the passivity of the wife, to an extent. But now the question is, was the author of Genesis merely reflecting the patriarchal culture that he (or she) was living in when writing its text, or was it God’s intentional design from creation for all people universally? This question is difficult.

What are we arriving at? It’s simple: Eph 5:22-33 is a complex matrix of hierarchy and equality. It’s a mixed bag. The evidence bears weight for both sides.

Hold On, Wait a Sec: Ephesians 5:22-33 and Genesis 2:24

We determined that Paul’s use of Gen 2:(23-)24 demonstrates that he was looking at Scripture and seeing the unity of the relationship. Hold on, wait a second. Genesis 2:24 was seen by many to have the passive submission of the wife and active motion of the husband. Implicit in Gen 2:24 is wifely submission. As we have stated before, in this text (Eph 5:22-33) is a complex matrix of hierarchy and equality. Even Gen 2:24 demonstrates this complex matrix, for while the two become one flesh, i.e. they are one unit and are therefore equal partners, there is still a level of submission and a level of action, and the two partners partake in the unity on different levels. It seems that Gen 2:24 in Eph 5:22-33 is emphasizing the unity, for Paul then describes the relationship of the church with Christ as a great mystery (although his statement applies also to marriage). Then Paul says, “Nevertheless, . . .” (5:33). It seems that the development of the argument goes like this:

01) Paul is arguing for husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church

02) Paul’s point is that husbands are to take action, for Christ took action and the church received the action

03) Genesis 2:24 demonstrates that the wife receives the action without doing anything (the husband does the work)

04) But despite her passivity, she is still joined with the husband into one flesh

05) This union is a great mystery whether we are looking at the union between husbands and wives or Christ and the church

06) Nevertheless, white they are equal partners, there are still roles to fulfill in marriage: husbands love; wives respect.

Therefore, Paul’s use of Gen 2:24 is not quite how we put it originally. Yes, it places some emphasis on equality, but it does not solve the issue and do away with hierarchy. It demonstrates that we are still dealing with a complex matrix.